Top Five Faves from 2019

I can’t believe it. 2019 is rolling to a close. I hope you have each decided on a creative way to ring in the fresh 2020. Perhaps with a thankful list of all the little things that brought you joy, perhaps with a sigh of relief that some things are now behind you. Or perhaps like a certain sister-in-law, determined to do a Polar Bear Plunge on the first fresh new year morning with a leap into the salty Pacific. To each her own.

Taking a peek at my website, I can see that I tried a variety of new things this year and I want to encourage you to spread your own wings, too. It’s okay to knock on doors, just to see who opens them. Bring a couple of girlfriends along, in case it’s a trap full of Imperial Stormtroopers, but most of the time, it’s just a group of Ewoks and a Baby Yoda or two. (What if there’s more than one? EEK!)

Since you’re staying up past your bedtime tonight anyway, here’s the countdown of our Top Five Blogs of 2019 to read.

5. The Blues is about depression, what feels like, how it works, and that you are loved.

4. Eldercare Where? is about transitioning through our different life stages and giving particular thought to our elders’ circumstances.

3. Pie Giveaway Time! was a fun blog to run and I’m planning a lot of giveaways next year! Stay tuned!

2. Vaping, School, and Your Kid is as labeled and full of links and photos. Parenting is not for sissies.

1. Stalked by the Empty Nest was the opener for 2019 and contains all the emotions of change.

I wish you joy and courage. I hope you do hard things and grow stronger from them. I want you to carry your laughter into battle because we are all in this together and I need to hear your giggles beside me.

Love your people, lend a hand, nourish yourself with all good things. May your light rise and brightly glow into the new year.

2019 Christmas Newsletter

2019 has been quite a year, let me catch you up!

Child Five just came into my writing lair to get the keys to my car in order to go to his day job that is usually a night job because BJs Brew House loves him. He schmoozes old ladies and brings ginormous pazookies to people and generally makes this world a better place, which is something a mother can get behind. He graduated high school in June. Like everything the kid has ever done, I celebrated with tears of joy and vowed, “We aren’t ever doing that again.”

It never gets old.

Child Five hangs out with Child Four, the two bachelors living in – let’s call it what it is – our basement. They like to style it “Man Cave” and I like to call it “The Pit of Despair” and if a cave woman ever walks by, she will agree that if a mastodon dies in the hallway, no one will ever notice. We are, neither one of us, going in there to investigate.

The two boys attend community college with lofty visions (rim shot: they are both 6’ 5”) of transferring to SDSU as Engineer majors. They sit around the table making up words for their calculus classes, like “Rolles theorem” and “left, right, Rieman sum” and “integrals”. I tell them to watch their language at the table but they don’t listen to me anymore because they are adulting now.

Adulting. This is The Way.

Did you see that coming? Quick side note that I did not see Baby Yoda coming, either, and now he must never leave and I need one for Christmas because he makes me laugh but also want to throw things and this sounds just like grand-parenting but, none of my kids are dating at the moment, so….Yoda!

Where was I?

The Middle. Child Three trains dogs. Among other career-type things. Shameless plug. Her dog is more obedient than any of my five kids ever were. It lies on a towel and won’t budge, even when you wave hotdogs under his nose. I mean, not like I tried when my daughter wasn’t looking or anything. I was happy if my kids stayed in the backyard when the ice cream truck drove by. On the other hand, her dog will also rip your face off if she says the magic word, so, pros n cons.

Child Three and Child Two, my beautiful girls, lived together in a Shoe in Ramona this year. A sweet little penny loafer that they enjoyed but will give up in a couple of weeks for closer pasture and that makes my heart happy. Child Two is sneakily educating children through the use of science and creativity (ie: fun), both on the job and through personal tutoring, and may take her talents into the school district next year. So long as she avoids calculus, we can hang out.

Child One has been orbiting our universe for so long that we think of him like Santa Claus. Maybe he’s real. Maybe he’ll show up if we leave out cookies. He’s not a holiday human, which is okay, but if he decides to pay us a visit, just know that a trap has been laid and we are ready for “Operation Santa Snatch”.

Hubby built a wall this year. Out of eighty pound blocks of cement. Then he built a deck. Out of PVC planks that are fire-proof , termite-proof, water-proof, and walking-on proof. Don’t ask. Hubby thinks retirement sounds fabulous until it occurs to him that he will be subjected to my sarcasm 24/7 and then he goes to work whistling. Which makes him both strong and wise.

Who, me?

I’ve been very patient and responsible and went to writing classes for a year to learn how to write a novel. Now I have a novel but it has to be REWRITTEN and EDITED and subjected to further SCRUTINY before it’s allowed to be born and the temptation to go rogue and self publish exactly what I think about that is dancing through my head.

Ahem.

I love my actual job. I provided excellent service to my freelance clients this year and they let me make glorious words for them. They are the warm steady glow in an office filled with strobe lights and laser beams. And a chicken.

And a wardrobe with Narnia inside.

I sit in my closet, wardrobe thrown open wide, and magic pours out. With it, I spin the straw from my emptying nest into the gold of new dreams. And everything sort of sparkles.

Merry Christmas to each one of you, and a very Sparkly New 2020.

Sweet as Pie Winner

Congrats to our Pie-in-a-Jar Giveaway drawing winner! Mark Ishman will be enjoying a personal sized Five-Spice Pear-Apple Pie made by “The Peace of Pie” bloggess, Jessica Gelineau. A huge ‘Thank You!’, Jess, for helping us kick off the holidays with sweetness and fun. And thank you to everyone who played along, we’ll do it again soon!

Jess has been years working her way through Ken Haedrich’s pie book and savoring every bite. For the rest of us longing to sample this recipe, we include it here with Jess’ notes sprinkled throughout.

And if you just can’t get enough, visit Ken Haedrich’s Pie Academy website to access how-to videos, recipes, and all of his books. Happy Baking!

Crust: Ken Haedrich’s Basic Flaky Pie Pastry

Single Crust:

Cut up 1/2 stick of cold unsalted butter into small pieces and set aside. Measure out 1/4 cup of cold vegetable shortening and set aside.

Combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl. Toss well, by hand, to mix. Scatter the butter pieces over the dry ingredients and toss to mix. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it is broken into pieces the size of small peas.

Add the shortening and pieces and continue to rub in until the fat is all in small pieces and very much incorporated into the dry ingredients.

Fill the 1/4 cup you were using for shortening with cold water. Sprinkle half of the water over the mixture. Toss well with a fork to dampen the mixture.

Add the remaining water, 1 1/2 to 2 tbs. at a time, and continue to toss and mix, pulling the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl on the upstroke and gently pressing down on the downstroke. Add a little more water, 1 tsp at a time, if necessary, until the dough can be packed together in a ball.

Once it is packable, make a ball and press down to flatten it somewhat into a thick disk. Wrap the pastry (I use a piece of wax paper and fold all the corners under) and refrigerate until firm enough to roll.

Filling:
3 and 1/2 cups peeled, cored, and sliced Granny Smith, Cortland, Northern Spy, or other apples
3 and 1/2 cups cored and sliced ripe pears, peeled or unpeeled
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
Cornmeal Streusel Topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1. If you haven’t already, prepare the pastry and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.
2. On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the pastry into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9 1/2 inch deep-dish pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
3. Combine the apples, pears, lemon zest, lemon juice, orange juice, and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar in a large bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
4. Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, the cornstarch, and five-spice powder in a small bowl. Stir the mixture into the fruit. Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell and smooth the filling with your hands to even it out. Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, make the topping. Put the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse several times to mix. Scatter the butter over the mixture and pulse until it resembles fine crumbs. Empty the crumbs into a medium-size bowl and rub them between your fingers to make large, buttery crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.
6. Remove the pie from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 375 F. Carefully dump the crumbs in the center of the pie, spreading them evenly over the surface with your hands. Tamp them down lightly. Return the pie to the oven, placing it so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. Just in case, slide a large aluminum foil-lined baking sheet onto the rack below to catch any spills. Continue to bake until the juices bubble thickly around the edge, another 30 minutes.
7. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

In the beginning…

You can almost smell it

Made by hand

Crumble topping

Happy ending!

Pie Giveaway Time!

Thank you everyone for putting up with me last month. NaNoWriMo is no small thing.

To reward your patience, and to celebrate THE END, we’re having a drawing for a giveaway! Pie eating contest Pie throwing contest Pie-in-a-Jar Gifting is a great way to kick off the month of December, and it’s so much better than Figgy Pudding.

By “we”, I mean a collaboration with my favorite pie baker, Jessica Gelineau. Her luscious pie blog, “The Peace of Pie“, has kept me company for years. The stunning visuals are almost as good as tasting, and calorie-free. Jess is a wife, a mom, a math teacher. She wears as many hats as most of us do, but tops it off with a baker’s hat. Read her story here. I’m just saying that if you were born with a “pie thumb”, it’s a sign. And the world is holding their cuppas and waiting. For pies. On your front porch, Jess.

Now, I’ve been known to exploit the mason jar epidemic back in the day, as you recall. I will never eat a salad in a jar. But Pie-in-a-Jar, as she puts it, is as exciting as it sounds:

  • They’re pies. In JARS.
  • They’re so super cute.
  • What’s better than a slice of pie? A whole pie to yourself.
  • What’s more socially acceptable than eating a whole pie? Eating a whole mini pie.
  • What’s easier to transport than a jar with a lid?…Nothing.

To enter your name in the drawing, please make a comment in the Message box, below. You have until Sunday, December 8th, 2019, at midnight to add your comment. On Monday, into the sorting hat you’ll go and the lucky winner will be announced the 10th.

The winning Pie-in-a-Jar will be a Five-Spice Pear-Apple Pie from Ken Haedrich’s pie cookbook, because she just bought a big fresh jar of five spice powder – the one alluded to in the Butternut Squash pie in her latest post, here. This is how the story begins, and this is how the story ends.

You really, really, want to be a part of this story. I mean, these things inspired poetry!

Stay tuned, ya’all. Even if you don’t win, you’ll win. Next week I’ll post the recipe, links, and more festive pie fun so we can all raise a cuppa together.