The Advent of Singing!

This is an audience participation song. If you are reading this, you must sing along to the tune of “On Top of Spaghetti.”


Ready? Everyone together, with feeling!

On top of some apples
And cranberries red
The baker placed sugar
“And walnuts!” she said
But in her big hurry
She started to bake
Forgetting the flour
The mixture should take
The pie smelled delicious
The berries, well done!
But when she removed it
The top was no fun.


And while it still smelled nice
Flour matters, it’s true
Cause without the flour
The top looked like poo
The story ends happy
‘Cause the pie tasted great
It was good for the tummy
Though ugly on the plate
The moral is simple
For bakers of pie…

Some pies turn out ugly

But they’re still worth a try!




The Advent of Winning

Alright, pie-lovers. Here’s your chance. The first local person (who can meet me or pick up the pie TONIGHT) to read this blog and comment (on the blog–not Facebook) wins today’s Advent Pie:

Pineapple Coconut Pie

cocopineI know–no lofty, meaningful message today. Just this:

If you pay attention and act fast,

you might win a pie.


On your marks, get set…..




The Advent of Sore Muscles

This evening, I baked a Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie. It was one of those cool, easy recipes you find on the back or inside of a wrapper or package. This one came with a graham cracker crust. Yes, I used a store-bought graham cracker crust. I have made them from scratch, and I’ve not found them to be any better.

Here’s how you make it:

Mix 2 8oz packages of cream cheese with a hand mixer until it looks fluffy.

Add 2/3 cup sugar and mix some more.


Add 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice and mix some more.

Next, beat in two eggs.

Finally, mix in one 15oz can of pumpkin.

Pour it into a graham cracker crust and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Cool it on a rack for an hour and then chill for at least 3 hours.

Add whipped cream if you want to.

Making the pie is not what made my muscles sore. I enjoyed some time with my father-in-law and my son this afternoon making (of all things) a fire pit in my back yard. My kids are having some friends over for a Christmas bon-fire this weekend, and we sent out invitations without having a fire pit. So…I’m super grateful for the help today. We drove around on the golf cart gathering rocks and sticks and sand and lights and stuff. We whipped up a pretty decent little fire pit in no time. Thanks, Tom!

I know I’ll be sore tomorrow, because I’m already sore.

I don’t mind a bit, though. As it turns out, I’ve been a bit of a SLUG lately. No good reason–I just haven’t made time to exercise much. Even though I’m sore, I feel good about getting something done. Not to mention, it sure is nice to spend time with folks where there are no SCREENS involved. It was a great day to be outdoors with family–even just for a little while–and it was worth every ache.

Today’s pie is going to someone else who knows about hard work (much harder than I did today). I’m taking this Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie to my son’s third grade teacher. She works hard every day at one of the most important jobs there is–teaching and nurturing children. What an impact she is making on my son and so many others! pumpkincheesecake2

I am grateful for her hard work, and I am so thankful for the ability to do work myself. Whether your muscles are sore from the work you’ve done or perhaps just your brain :), give thanks today for the gift of work.

The Advent of Endurance

All right, folks. It’s December 3–and the third day of the “Advent of Pie” series here at fortyandtwentyblackbirds.

This week, I’m a temporarily single parent. My husband’s out of town on business, so it’s just me and the kids. And the kids’ school stuff. And the kids’ homework. And the kids’ rehearsals. And the kids’ activities. And the kids’ laundry. And carpooling. Now, before I officially declare how tired I am right now, let me say how thankful I am to have a partner who divides the job of parenting with me right down the middle. I’m always grateful, but I notice it even more when he’s not there. So a shout out goes to the best husband and dad ever.

mary engelbreit Christmas







So I remembered about making pie on my way down the driveway at 8:30 this evening. I had just dropped off two other kids and been to a parent meeting while my kids were at a play rehearsal. Before I thought about which pie to make, I thought this:


But then I got over it. I realized that today’s big, wonderful, notable gift is endurance. Sure, we’ve all got plenty to do–probably too much on most days. Today, though, I paid attention to the gift of endurance. I had enough energy–and a lot of other resources, too–to do what needed to be done.

Enough gas in the car.

Enough food to pack a snack.

Enough time to get where I needed to go.

Enough clean clothes to avoid doing laundry tonight.


Also, I had enough eggs, cheese and ham to make a very quick Ham and Cheese Quiche. The kids and I will reheat it for our breakfast in the morning. Good fuel for another busy day.

Seriously. So quick. You could do it, too. Here’s the recipe:

In a big bowl, mix this stuff up:

3 eggs, 1 cup of any cheese (I had shredded mozzarella), 3/4 cup cubed ham, 1 tsp basil, salt and pepper, 1 and 1/2 cups of milk, and 1 heaping tbsp of flour.

After you mix it all up, pour it into an unbaked pie crust. You can make the edges of the crust as fancy as you like, but you’ll see from the photo that my crust was ugly–don’t think it’ll slow anyone down. Bake it in a 325 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Time can vary a bit–if you stick a knife in the middle, it should come out pretty clean.

quicheWe all have crazy days. Sometimes, each of us wishes for less to do. But you can bet there’s someone out there tonight wishing they’d had the day that you did.

Tonight, give thanks for the ability–and the endurance–to do all that you’ve done today.



The Advent of Sharing

Today was full of notable people, things, and events. At our church today, I was a proud mom watching my son sing with the kids choir and my daughter sing “Ave Maria” all by herself. It was more than notable–to me anyway. I could barely video, I was so overwhelmed.


Now if that wasn’t enough, I was blessed to share a chili luncheon with friends from our church. I think there were 10 or 12 different crocks of chili and lots of yummy bread and cheese to go with it. Not to mention delicious desserts. I tasted a yummy banana pudding and a slice of my own Chocolate Chess Pie. My stomach and my heart were both full as we visited with friends in the gym. It just felt so–ABUNDANT. I thought fondly of my Dad, who loved to pile different foods on his plate at a church supper. I remember him saying once, “It’s polite to try everybody’s…” I was so polite today that my stomach hurt. 🙂


It struck me as I looked around. Our lives may not be perfect. Troubles come and go. Times change quickly. One thing is for sure:

If you’ve got a pot of something to share and someone to share it with, you are rich.

So much richer than so many in this troubled world.

Having enough to eat is a true blessing, but having someone to share with makes the blessing bigger. If today or tomorrow, you share a cup of coffee, a sandwich, your candy bar, some soup, or anything with someone you care about, you are blessed. Each day brings us an opportunity to share something with someone. Make your plan now for how you’ll use your chance to share. My plan involves this pot of yummy chocolate chips and butter.
Tonight, I baked a new recipe, Tarheel Pie. It was not difficult at all, and I still have a few ready-made crusts, so that made it even simpler.  I melted chocolate chips (the mini ones melt faster) with a whole stick of butter. A whole stick. Not a pat or a tablespoon. This pie is not messing around.
chipsNext, I mixed eggs, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, flour and salt together and then mixed in the awesome chocolate elixir. The icing on the cake (or the pie, as the case may be) was adding MORE chocolate chips and a big scoop of flaked coconut to the batter right at the end. It baked for about 40 minutes and smelled like the best brownies ever.

The sharing part will happen tomorrow morning at work (much to my kids’ chagrin). I am so thankful to work with some wonderful women each day. I just love them. Not a one of them is wealthy or famous. They are all going through the stuff of life like champions, and I’ve never seen such community–they support one another through the ups and downs. I know this is true, because they’ve supported me with hugs, laughs, casseroles, and anything else I’ve needed in the time we’ve worked together. I consider it a privilege to support them right back.

Tomorrow, we’ll share Tarheel Pie. Can’t wait to taste it. So grateful for the chance to share!tarheel pie

The Advent of Pie

December 1st already! 2012 is flying by, and the holiday season is here. It’s a time for celebrating, family, friends and cheer. I really do love Christmas.


BUT. There’s something you might not know about this pie lady. I can be, wellll….a little high maintenance when it comes to the holiday season. I love what (and Who) the season stands for, but sometimes, I get a little overwhelmed by the details. OK, so maybe a lot overwhelmed. My intentions are the best, but once I get in the middle of boxes, decorations, busy calendars, shopping, church activities, school activities, money concerns, and everything else that comes up, I just wanna sit down. For a long time. For many of us (I know I’m not alone–I’ve seen your faces out there), it doesn’t take much to cloud the joy of the season. We forget about the Advent Season. To help me remember, I looked up the definition of Advent. Here’s what I found:


  1. The arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.
  2. The first season of the church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays.


I already know that the “notable person” we’re celebrating is Jesus. I’m so thankful for His special birth, and for all that it means to me–and to everyone.

If you’re like me, though, it’s easy to forget all the “notable” things in this season–in this life–that are constantly arriving for us.

Indeed, each day of the year–each day of our lives–brings the advent of a “notable person, thing, or event.”

So many gifts to celebrate. There’s no way to name them all.But for this month, during the season of Advent, I’m celebrating the advent of 25 gifts. 25 notable people, things, or events. 25 notable days. I’m starting today and ending on Christmas Day. And you know my favorite way to celebrate:


lemonpieWhew! I bet you were wondering if I’d ever get to the pie part. Here it comes.

Let the celebration begin. The First Pie of Advent is Old Fashioned Lemon Pie.

I found the recipe for this pie in this cool book I got for Christmas last year.lostartcookbookIt has some fun facts about pie history as well as some very old pie recipes. This Lemon Pie recipe was from 1848! It was really easy to make, especially since I cheated and used this crust:

fakecrustNow, don’t judge me. That Pillsbury Dough Boy knows what he’s doin’ when it comes to crust, and you know I’ve always been about using what’s already around. Also, using store-bought crust brings up something important. Lots of people suffer during the holidays because they worry hard about what they SHOULD be doing.

I should make Grandma’s crust.

I should make homemade ornaments with my kids.

I should have already finished shopping.

I should get a real tree, but I don’t like watering and vacuuming.

And the list goes on. ENOUGH. Forget about what you (or others) think you SHOULD do, and just do what you can.

Do what matters to you. Do what brings you joy.

orangesAnd speaking of joy…while my pie was baking, I enjoyed some of the most delicious navel oranges ever. We bought them from a kid we know who was selling them for the high school band. Those oranges were so fantastic–the juice ran down my chin! I also got to bask in some terrific memories. When I was little, we used to get oranges down in the toes of our Christmas stockings. The smell and taste of them will always remind me of Christmas morning. Not to mention, I sold my share of band fruit back in the day–along with my brothers and sisters.

So anyway, back to the Lemon Pie. It only had a few ingredients: Water, sugar, cornstarch, an egg, lemon zest, lemon juice. So simple. I whisked it all together at a simmer on the stove top and poured it into the pie crust. It was ready in 20 minutes. It had to cool on the rack and then chill in the fridge for a few hours. Here’s a slice.

lemonsliceIt’s kind of a thin pie, but is SO tasty and tangy and lemony. It was the kind of tangy that makes you suck in your cheeks, press your lips together, and squint your eyes a bit. Yummy. I was also thrilled with the gorgeous yellow color.

Today’s reason to celebrate? Our son walked in the town Christmas parade today with the Running Club from his school. Definitely a notable event! So thankful for the opportunities our kids have. So thankful for a town that gets together to celebrate. Here’s a shot from the parade. Our son is blurry (in the blue pants), because he was busy throwing candy. He had lots of fun, and so did we!parade

If you’re a reader of this blog, I invite you to celebrate advent–the arrival of notable people, things, or events–this Christmas season. What blessing arrived for you today?

Be Whelmed

A lot has happened over the last few months in this world. In this country. In your neighborhood or town. In my life.

We all know we’re supposed to say things like, “Change is good” or “I can make it through this time in my life.” Both of those things are true, but sometimes we need more convincing than others. Often, we spend time thinking of what we CAN’T do, or what DIDN’T go our way:

–I didn’t lose the weight.

–We can’t pay this debt.

–I don’t understand.

–She can’t solve such a big problem.

–That’s not what I planned.

–He’s not getting better.

–I can’t catch up.

–She’ll never learn.


All this negative talk and thinking leaves us in a state of being that is, in a word, OVERWHELMING. I don’t know what everyone should do when this overwhelming state comes on. But here’s what I did.

Step #1: Take stock of what you have.

Look around. See what you already have. Stop thinking about what you DON’T have. Yesterday, I took all of the pie ingredients I could find in my pantry and put them on my kitchen table. I didn’t buy them–I already had them around. I just forgot about the stuff. Each one of us has something to work with–no matter how small that thing might be. Pie stuff, a smile to give, our health, a tank full of gas, a table to share a meal, a phone call, something.


Step #2: Anticipate something good.

Before I baked the first pie, I put a tablecloth on my dining room table. I found all of my cooling racks and trivets. I acted like I would get something done. I anticipated that table full of beautiful pies. That anticipation (hope, if you will) was just enough to get me started. I also had a little side motivation. My daughter had asked me to join her at a holiday craft fair at her school. She painted some cool light switch covers to sell, and she needed a booth buddy, so me and the pies were in. I baked 2 Pecan Pies, 1 Apple Pie, 2 Peanut Pies, 2 Chocolate Chess Pies, and 1 Mixed Berry Pie.  This brings me to the next step.

Step #3: Share.

We really did have a great day at the craft fair. I sold all but one pie, which we were very happy to have for dessert tonight. Pictured above is my SECOND slice of the evening. So salty, sweet and delicious–both times! I got to see some folks I haven’t seen in a while, and I had one awesome customer who did something great. She DID NOT buy a pie–not for herself. She said that she was on a diet, but she knew that I would know someone who really needed a pie. So she paid for one and told me to give it away. She took stock of what she had ($10.00). She anticipated something good (a happy, deserving pie-eater). She shared(I already found a very deserving pie-eater who was happy to take a pie home today). That customer made my day.

I was so tired from all that baking and pie-selling, but encouraged, so I made two more pies–a loyal customer found out I was baking and put in some requests. She’s anticipating Apple Pie and Coconut Cream Pie. I hope she’ll share!

Remember, when you’re feeling overwhelmed,

Take stock.

Anticipate something good.


Maybe then you’ll be whelmed. 🙂


Some things definitely get better with time–fine cheese, fine wine, meat when it’s marinating, dance steps (for some people, anyway), friendships, the economy (we can hope, right?), sinus infections… I like to believe that time is a healer and that there is a time for everything.

But some things DO NOT get better with time–leftovers after about the 3rd day (although lasagna is DEFINITELY better as a leftover), most mean people, a grudge, weeds, and, as I have recently learned–OVERripe fruit.

There is a lovely lady I know who grows stuff and makes stuff. She’s just one of those cool, earthy people who seem to always make yummy and useful things happen. This summer, she shared some pears with us from a tree in her yard. My husband loves a pear when it is really juicy and ripe. He wants the juice to run down his chin. Not me–I like a pear to be more crunchy, like an apple. Anyway, when he tasted these beautiful pears, he said they were the best he’s ever had. EVER. They did taste good. And their color is very beautiful and natural-looking.

We ate a few of the gorgeous pears, but then, I procrastinated. I waited. I got distracted, or something. And the rest of the pears got too squishy for pie. They got really squishy, and the fruit flies heard about it and made their way to my garage. There was a smell like pear wine and suddenly something sticky on my shoe as I made my way in from the car one day. Dangit. Shouldn’t have procrastinated.As good fortune would have it, the Lovely Pear Lady came through again. Above are pictured some of her lovely pears. I kept my focus this time, and as I’m typing this, a pear pie is in the oven for her. Boy, those pears smelled perfectly sweet and delicious.

Here’s to getting on with it.

A word about procrastination. Late last year, I wrote a children’s storybook. And no, I’m not telling you what it’s about. You can buy one when it comes out. 🙂

I showed it to a few folks and read it aloud to my family, and for a while, I could actually picture kids choosing my book from the shelf at a school library. I could picture a dad or a mom or a teacher reading my book to a child. I envisioned illustrations and even an action figure based on my book. I printed out the manuscript and bought some envelopes. Then I got distracted. I procrastinated.

The jury will be out for a while as to whether this “situation” will be better or worse with time. But today, those pears–the ones that I got a second chance on–inspired me to get on with it. Now it’s six months later. Time to get on with it.

So I did this:

I revised one last line, printed a copy, signed my cover letter, and sealed it all up. I’m taking it to the post office today. There is one of those self-serve machines for postage, so I don’t even have to wait for tomorrow.

I’m no fool (OK, I probably am a lot of the time, but I’ve researched a little), so I know that publishing is a tricky business these days. There are a bazillion writers out there hoping for a slice of the Publishing Pie. Will this one envelope change my career? Probably not. Is there enough hope in it to make me send another one? Absolutely.

There’s something to be said for Nike’s slogan:

Just do it.


I hope the Pear Pie tastes as good as it looks.



As for you, if you’re putting something off–


Can you make change?

Today, I participated in a yard sale at our church. For several hours, folks looked over tables of treasures, chatted about the hot weather, and several asked me,

“Can you make change?”

I could make change because I’d remembered to get dollar bills and quarters yesterday at the bank. I had plenty of time at the yard sale to think about that question some more. (Though I’m surprised my brain did not totally fry in the incredible Georgia heat. H.O.T.)

Can you make change? Not the money kind. Change. Can you change things? Or people? Or stuff? Or your destiny? Heavy questions for a pie lady.

Tonight, I baked Strawberry Pie. Tomorrow, there’s a covered dish supper for a wonderful lady who’s retiring from our staff. A BIG change for her. Now, she’ll be retired. She’ll change the way she spends her time. I’m so happy for her and glad that she’ll have more time to enjoy her children and grandchildren.

The strawberries changed a bit. They were excellent just way they came. They were perfectly tasty and sweet and juicy. Then they changed. Change happened to them. Things happened to change their flavor and shape.

The older I get, the more I believe that people don’t always “make change.”

Sometimes, change makes people.

The way people are is wonderful. People are excellent, just the way they start out. Take my son and daughter, for example. Excellent from the start, in my unbiased opinion. 🙂

Since they were babies, change has happened to them. Moving, growing, learning, school, knowing people, loving people, learning about themselves, wondering about the world. So much change.  When they were little, I sometimes wanted them to stay the same forever. They were so precious to me. So perfect and wonderful. Change happened anyway, whether I wanted it or not. Always does.

But let me tell you, I like what change did for those little people. I’m so proud of who they’ve become. My husband and I couldn’t be happier with the third grader and the eighth grader that will start another school year Monday morning. (Yes! Monday morning, July 30! We start early in Georgia.)

One can consider change as something difficult or scary. Sometimes, we feel like we can change things ourselves.Sometimes, we just wish we could change things.

I guess we do “make change.”

 Really, though, I think change makes us.

Even if we don’t understand it when it’s happening, change makes our lives beautiful. Even if it can take years to understand why change happens, it fills us with an inevitable wonder that shapes us. All in all, I’m in favor of change.

Just look what it did for those strawberries!

All Buttoned Up

Today, I baked a Granny Smith Apple Pie for a friend. She ordered it for her daughter’s birthday, and she needed the pie to have some very interesting crust accents–buttons! Apparently, the birthday party has a sort of buttony theme with cool sock puppets, etc. I love creative people. So my challenge was to create some buttons for the top of the pie. I think it turned out sufficiently buttony. I had to resist snatching one of those crust buttons off the top and tasting it once the pie was baked. 

It was nice to make ONE pie today.

Over the last month or so, I’ve baked quite a few pies to sell at the market with some special request pies baked in there. It’s been fun, and I’ve made a little bit of money, but one thing’s for sure–I have been BUSY. Especially considering this is supposed to be summer break. My kids have been delightfully busy with Drama Camp, sleepovers, and other fun summer stuff. I feel thankful for both the fun and the laziness they’re having. Summer break’s short here–barely 8 weeks, so it really flies by. They’ll start school in only NINE days.

As much as I hate to say goodbye to summer (which we don’t really get to do until October in Georgia), I’m looking forward to a schedule. I’m no the sort of gal who functions well in such an “unbuttoned” environment. Without deadlines, I don’t get a lot of stuff finished. Oh, I have great ideas, but my follow-through really suffers without schedules and time limits.

For example, between pie-making, I’ve been painting my daughter’s room. It’s not a big room, and she actually chose a simple color–white. I’ve been working on it for over a week now. Still not done. I keep seeing something else that I need/want to do. Like cleaning out a closet. Or watching “Clue” with my husband (really funny movie if you get a chance). Or NOTHING. So there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be buttoned up, if you will.

I love a to-do list, especially when I get to check stuff off. But it can be daunting if it just keeps getting longer and nothing gets checked off. A person might just get overwhelmed enough to take a nap. I’ve considered just adding “Take nap” to my list so that I can check something off.

Instead, I’m reminding myself of some wise advice I heard from my husband’s sweet great-grandmother. She lived to be 101 years old. Once, when I asked her how she lived so long, she said that she pretty much just did “one good thing every day–then I rested.”

Do one good thing every day. Then rest.

Makes sense. If you (and by you, I mean me–or I…whatever) spend your days running from one busting button (POP!) to another, nothing will ever get properly buttoned up. It seems wiser to do one thing well and then move on to another. Sorry multi-taskers. Sorry me. Slow down and focus!

It really is something to consider in today’s fast-paced world. One thing every day. Rest.


Maybe I’ll rest first…Nah, better get back to painting. Or maybe the dishes. Or the laundry. Hmmmm….POP!