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Strawberry Muffin Tin Pies

4 Aug

The Wallpaper Factor

I saw an article recently about a woman who wore a hidden camera to show how many times she received harassment from men in a day.  The article brought back a memory of some advice I received from an elderly woman not too long ago.

Before I go any further, let me be the first to acknowledge that there is an entire spectrum of uninvited harassment that women receive from a basic hello to lewd comments and gestures.  And there is also an entire spectrum of feelings that women exhibit in response to these from indifference to discomfort and many times fear.  AND, since I am putting out all the necessary qualifications I need to in order to go on about my random thoughts, let me also acknowledge that cat calling and harassment can happen to anyone from anyone regardless of gender.  There.

Anyways… I’m not gonna lie, I don’t mind the basic, non-threatening holler or comment from random strangers.  I find them to be a mini-self esteem boost and actually appreciate someone taking notice.  I realize that the impetus of the comments has absolutely nothing to do with me.  They are just attention seeking behaviors that would be thrown at any woman standing on the sidewalk at that moment.  But since said man took the liberty to extend his holler, glance or compliment, I will take the liberty to interpret it how I want to and decide that yes, I am awesome and I do look hot today.

Several months ago, I was walking to a restaurant with an elderly woman who I admire very much.  She’s a class act and has been at the forefront of some of the major arts and social movements in Cleveland. In 1961,  she was the first woman to walk through the front doors of the oldest social club in Cleveland (est. 1872) that until then had been  exclusively men.  On that walk to the restaurant, I was the recipient of a very loud and animated compliment from a man passing by.  I mentioned to this woman that I was always conflicted on how to respond in these moments.  She stopped walking, looked straight at me and said, “You say thank you.” Continue reading

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Peach Sour Cherry Pie (in a jar!)

29 Jun

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I don’t regard myself as an entertainer.  I lack the skill or the energy to plan parties with thematic decor, parchment wrapped mini sandwiches, and coordinating signs on chalk boards.  In fact, I get very overwhelmed when I see blog posts or magazine articles telling me how easy it is to create the perfect summer gathering.  I’m drawn to them.  Oh, I am.  They entice me with pictures of outdoor rugs, strings of lanterns and pretty jugs of water with various vegetables or fruit in them.  I have party envy for those who seem to effortlessly create these picture perfect experiences.

But I don’t want that necessarily.  I want people.  Skip the details and give me people – lots of people.  People from different places in my life who can intersect and meet each other.  People who are not like me, who have different jobs, interesting hobbies.  People who will allow me the honor of hosting them and graciously accept our invitation to come and be home.  I don’t entertain – I gather.  I bring together my life of people and fill my home with their voices, their laughter, their families.  Friends are fed and children are adored while having backyard adventures and making messes that sometimes leave behind a memory of them in a stain on the rug or a fingerprint on the wall.  I love that.

A house turns into a home when you USE it.  Fill it to the brim, put the kitchen on overdrive, drag out the extra chairs, bang on the piano, play in the yard, toast to good friends and turn up the music.

After a big gathering, I love to wake up early and sneak downstairs to an empty house.  I sit in the dining room, pairing my coffee with left over dessert, and think of how just hours ago the place was plastered with cups, dishes and remnants of the dinner that fed our friends.  There’s an energy in the room, and I swear that I hear sounds ringing because that’s what happens when a house turns into a home.  Voices stick to the wall, laughter floats into the ceiling and friends are no longer guests, they are family. Continue reading

Apple Raspberry Rhubarb Pie

11 May

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From This Mom To Her Village:

Mother’s Day feels like a very linear holiday for a role that is so dynamic.  I celebrate my mom, my kids celebrate me, and so on.  We go to brunch and plant flowers in a domino effect of celebration and admiration for our respective mothers and mothers’ mothers.  To me, Mother’s Day is less about an individual called a “mother” and more about the act of “mothering.”  The verb is more dynamic and to me, captures what raising children and frankly, raising each other, is all about.  For one to be a mother, you need a community of mothering that surrounds you.  This community reinforces the values you are imparting to your children and slowly weaves a world outside of your nuclear family for them to venture out into.

I know I’m THE BEST MOM IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD (see!), but I didn’t get that way overnight and not without a lot, and I mean A LOT, of help.  There is an entire village around me that has helped mold me into the mother my kids perceive me to be. On Mother’s Day, this mother needs to thank her village for allowing her to be the mother she is trying to be. Continue reading

Recipes I LOVE and cannot live without

15 Feb

My close friends will tell you that I can wax poetic about the dynamics of love and relationships indefinitely.  I never tire of discussing the complex world of pursuing and then maintaining a loving, healthy, relationship.  After all, the need to be loved is at the core of human nature and human sexuality.  Our feelings about love, sex and relationships inform our entire life whether we realize it or not, so making space to try to understand how these dynamics affect us is well worth it in the quest for overall happiness.

When I was 14, my Sex Ed teacher gave me a book called Love, by Leo Buscaglia.  It was by far the most transformational book of my life.  I read it cover to cover and have since read it multiple times.  The book was filled with giant concepts of love far beyond the romantic sense.  In fact, it focused mostly on love of oneself as a key to having successful relationships.  At 14, this book accelerated my commitment to loving myself and constructed the lens through which I would approach relationships for the rest of my life.  It was powerful stuff and I credit that teacher and that book with what resulted in years of (mostly) healthy relationships and a strong sense of self.

What has transpired from my hobby of analyzing and pontificating about relationships is a fair amount of solicited and unsolicited advice-giving.  In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, I got into quite a few conversations with friends about variations of love – new love, maintaining love, and misdirected love.  All of my advice ended up back at one main theme.  Much like the book I read at 14, my theory is rooted in the fact that successful relationships stem from a solid sense of self identity.

As I talked about these different types of relationships, I kept seeing pictures in my mind. I’m a visual learner, so in order to get the thoughts out of my head, I drew my theories out on paper.  What resulted were the three main models of relationships that I feel are the most frequent among couples.  Clearly, it is impossible to sum up all relationships into three categories, but if you ask me (and I know you didn’t), here’s what I think a successful relationship looks like.

Exhibit A:  The Ideal Relationship

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I stand firmly behind my feelings that the most successful relationships start with two individuals who have a fully developed sense of self.  They have unique interests and their self identity is derived from within, not from external sources.  When these two people get together, they form a third entity where their shared interests and values overlap.

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In this model, there are three entities working together; two whole people and a third sphere which is the life and relationship that forms from combining the two.  The middle reflects the shared interests, the values and the chemistry that make this more than a friendship.  But outside of the relationship, each person still has unique interests to call their own and you can separate the two circles and they remain whole.  The sense of self remains intact.

Exhibit B:  You Complete Me

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In this scenario, you have two people who are still working on developing a full sense of self.  They mistakenly look to potential partners to complete whatever is missing and can be vulnerable to unhealthy relationships.  Each person enters into the relationship with their own interests and values, but they are unable to maintain a full sense of self.  The third entity shown in Exhibit A does not form, as this couple moves en mass sharing the same interests and building their identity through the other.

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Instead of a fancy venn diagram, you end up with one circle where the original self gets lost and you can’t see where one ends and the other begins.  Are these relationships doomed to fail?  Not necessarily.  But they are vulnerable to turmoil as the two people change over time.

Exhibit C:  If It’s Broken, Don’t Try to Fix It

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Giant. Red. Flag.  This relationship seems to be the most doomed to fail.  In this scenario, a person with a fully developed sense of self (Person 1) gets with a person who has a underdeveloped sense of self (Person 2).  Person 1 likes a challenge and thinks they can fix Person 2.  We all know how this ends….badly. Person 1 ends up feeling smothered and often times has a momentary lapse of their own sense of self as Person 2 latches onto them and their life (we’ve all lamented friends who are just not themselves anymore since getting into a relationship).

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The third entity from Exhibit A is unable to form in this scenario because Person 2 is deriving their identity from Person 1.  Meanwhile Person 1 begins to put up boundaries to preserve their sense of self, eventually pushing Person 2 away leaving remnants of a very tumultuous relationship in their wake.

I’ve worked hard over the years to model my marriage after Exhibit A.  In fact, as I look back over our 15 years together, the roughest times for me have been when my sense of self was diminished.  The years following having children were a major culprit and it took time and hard work to bring balance back and renew my new identity which now included being a mother. Relationships are dynamic and can shift in and out of the various models over the span of a lifetime.  If you grow your roots in a healthy approach that values two whole people uniting to build a relationship, you can surely weather the rough patches and restore balance while strengthening your partnership.  In my opinion, that is!

Recipes I LOVE and cannot live without

In honor of Valentines Day, I’m throwing some love to the recipes that have changed my life.  These are the recipes that I go back to time and again, no longer looking for anything better.  They are in heavy rotation and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Fluffy Pancakes from Allrecipes.com

Stop using the box.  This recipe is all you need and is forgiving enough to improvise with anything you have in your cupboard.  Add some fruit, some oatmeal, sub whole wheat flour – it never fails.

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies from Annie’s Eats

Confession:  I love those cakey, frosted sugar cookies that you get from the grocery store.  This recipe is exactly that but better!  Better like amazing.  I rarely make any other kind of sugar cookie anymore because these are so good.

Glazed Lemon Cookies from Martha Stewart

Hands down, these are sunshine in a cookie.  I start making these when I see the first spring flower and then make my last batch at the end of August before the kids go back to school.  They are bright, flavorful and refreshing cookies that everyone loves.  Take them out of the oven before they look done if you want a softer cookie.

Eating Well meal plans

This magazine (and website) was a game changer for our family. I think I can safely say that every recipe we have made has been fantastic.  Not only are they delicious, but they are not complicated and they are healthy.  My husband is the cook of the family and he has found this meal plan function on their website to be invaluable.  They give you a month of meals and a shopping list, or you can pare down the meal plan to as many days as you want. Dinner is served.

There you have it – I just don’t like these, I LOVE them.  XOXO

The Unexpected Side of Pie

28 Jan

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And she learned to make pie and lived happily ever after.  The end.

That’s is exactly how I expected this blog to go.  It was going to be about my year of pie, how I learned to make it and offer tips and tricks for others aspiring to become competent pie makers.

What I didn’t expect was my public confession that the blog was disguising a broken heart over a fourth miscarriage that exhausted my mind and extinguished my dreams of a third child. I didn’t expect that my blog would become an occasional outlet to express my thoughts about fertility and loss and that strangers would find me and leave comments or messages of support and gratitude for providing a positive, honest outlook on a very delicate topic.  The unexpected side of pie was that it provided healing not just for me, but countless others.

What I didn’t expect was that a wonderful woman from Sugarland Texas would send me the cookbook she made with her mother, entitled none other than Pie Eyed.  That a short email friendship with a fellow baking enthusiast would result in a gift that is so special and dear to me.  The unexpected side of pie was that it allowed two strangers in two different states the opportunity to bake the same recipes and share with each other a piece of their lives.

What I didn’t expect was that I would chat with a man in California about his lemon trees, that people from 61 different countries would read my blog, that more than 15,000 visits would be logged (14,000 of which I’m certain are my mother) and that I would reconnect with childhood teachers and friends.  I didn’t anticipate that pie would evolve into an offering of gratitude and create a bridge for me to cross into the lives of people such as Ednia Eason, homeless families and even the oil change guy. The unexpected side of pie was that it gave me a portal to the world from my small town Cleveland kitchen.

That’s exactly how I did NOT expect this blog to go.

And she learned to make pie and lived happily ever after knowing that the unexpected side of pie is in the story that unfolds after it comes out of the oven.  The end.

Continue reading

Eva’s German Christmas Cookies

22 Dec

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I’ve never been much of a collector of anything.  In fact, I’m quite the opposite.  I am at my happiest when I am ridding my household of unnecessary items and slipping unused travel mugs into the trash behind my husband’s back.  My friend collects snowmen, my brother-in-law collects coins, my grandfather collected stamps and my father-in-law collects Marilyn Monroe wine (hey, whatever moves you).  But a glance though my personal belongings reveals no rhyme or reason to anything I own.  I don’t hang on to anything long enough to officially collect it.

Today, I was searching for a Christmas cookie recipe left behind by our German exchange student, Eva.  As I tore through my cookbooks and files, I realized that I have quite the collection of personal recipes from friends and family.  There were Argentinean cookies from a friend who I worked with more than 10 years ago, a Chai tea recipe from a college roommate, a cranberry chutney recipe from a dear friend who I haven’t seen in years and many more.  It’s not surprising that I have come into so many recipes.  I eagerly quiz people on their favorite dishes, family traditions and have no shame asking for recipes that intrigue me.  But each recipe I bring home is more than just the anticipation of new food. I also bring home a part of that person who will always be in my thoughts when I make that dish.

It’s amazing how my collection of recipes connects me to people long after we have crossed paths and allows me to remember conversations and occasions that I might otherwise have forgotten.  That’s why I love these Christmas cookies. These are from Eva’s family and are her favorite cookies that her Grandmother makes at Christmastime.  This is the most cozy, rustic, beautiful recipe because… there is no recipe!  Eva’s Grandmother makes these cookies from scratch and does not have the recipe written down.  So for Eva to make them for us last Christmas, she had to translate over the phone from her Grandmother and then try to recreate them on her own.  And for me to share these with you, I had to do my best to follow the recipe from that same note that Eva translated and left at our house.

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These cookies are hearty and spicy and make you think of gingerbread houses and small German villages.  I’m obsessed with them and have added them to the mandatory rotation of family Christmas cookies.  Like all recipes, I followed Eva’s notes and then made some of my own adjustments like adding some salt and vanilla and brushing with a glaze. I also used a scale and followed the grams but you can do a conversion.  I’m actually not sure if I did it the way Eva would ( I think she does something with sugar and honey instead of a vanilla glaze), but they tasted great, so that’s all that matters! Continue reading

Pie it Forward: New Creation Farm

24 Nov

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My husband and I had our chicken epiphany about 5 or 6 years ago.  The epiphany was the moment we tasted chicken that had been raised humanely, free range and was as local as we could get.  The eggs were a richer color and there was just no comparison to the taste of the meat.  From then on, we continued to go to the local market and purchase meat and eggs from the family whose farm was called New Creation Farm.  We loved our trips to the market, but we didn’t take the time to really acquaint ourselves with the farm.  I’m embarrassed to say that it was more of a novelty at the time – a way for us to feel good about our suburban selves when we opened the fridge and had scrambled local eggs for breakfast.  It wasn’t until we moved closer to New Creation Farm and took weekend trips to shop that we began to understand that there was so much more to this family than just the chicken (and pigs and sheep and cows).

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Farm store

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Julia manages the farm store

The essence of Pie it Forward is reaching out to people who have touched my life by offering a small extension of gratitude.  My initial gratitude towards this family was of course, the food.  We’ve been eating their food for years now and I am certainly grateful for the time and effort that goes into the amazing products.  But as I was making pie and thinking about why I was so grateful, it dawned on me that my gratitude had less to do with the food and much more to do with the mission behind the farm and the family.

Continue reading

Pop Tarts are pie

9 Sep

I’m on lock-down.  A one year lock-down from initiating any change that adversely affects our family financially.  This lock-down, imposed by my husband, feels a bit like being grounded from hanging out with my friends.  I feel restrained and am trying my best to infuse some interest and energy into my life within the boundaries that have been set for me.  Here are the things I’m not allowed to do this year: Adopt a child, go to graduate school, get an in-ground trampoline, and get another exchange student.  These are just a few things that I have tested the waters with, only to be reminded of my one year gag order.

So I’ve taken to reading and researching and reading some more.  I’m well schooled now in the ethics of international adoption, I’ve decided I should get an MBA but only through a program that does not require me to retake the GRE (No worries, I found one!), I found a You Tube video of how to build your own retaining wall for an in-ground trampoline to save costs, and I’ve continued skyping with our former exchange student to remind myself how lucky we were to have been given a beautiful German host-daughter that we’ll know forever.  But I’m bored again.

Now I am tapping into the depths of my mind where my hopes and dreams live. I’m toying with my lifelong yearning to change the world and trying to figure out what that means going forward.  I think I’m on the right track having worked in the non-profit sector my whole career.  I have the good fortune to work in philanthropy and to build relationships with people who, like me, want to change the world.  I can even say with great certainty, that the place I’m working IS changing the world and if philanthropists invest in our organization, their generosity will be a catalyst for not only change and innovation, but will save lives.

But I want to understand more about charity and more about the world.  What I’ve noticed in nearly 15 years of working in non-profits is that while charity is well-intentioned and very necessary, there are many times when private dollars are just placating a problem and not really working to fix it and create SUSTAINABLE positive change.  Notice the word sustainable.  Like, when the grant dollars go away and your program ends and the at-risk teens don’t get their after school activity, the change you are trying to make is not sustainable and everyone goes back to square one.  Of course, I am over-simplifying my point but that’s part of what has me thinking about other ways to solve major social problems.

Enter my chosen book for vacation: The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the organization Acumen Fund.  The Blue Sweater has been one of the books that has changed my world view.  Jacqueline’s passion for finding new and innovative ways to tackle poverty spoke directly to my feelings about traditional charity – there IS a third business model between for-profit and non-profit.  Forbes Magazine calls her model “philanthropic venture capital.” And that’s literally what it is – taking charitable dollars and investing them in social entrepreneurs in select areas of the world who have ideas that can create sustainable solutions to social problems, therefore addressing the larger issue of poverty.  They are riskier investments with lower returns (hence her term, “patient capital”), but with patience, the return is larger than any venture capitalist could ever imagine – the social impact that comes from giving even just one person the tools to raise themselves up from poverty…forever.  I think Acumen Fund is on to something and I want to learn more about it.

And you know what the best part is about my new obsession with social entrepreneurship and social venture capital as a tool to save the world?  It’s free.

Continue reading

Kid Cliffhanger

14 Aug

I have a kid cliffhanger.  Kind of like a kid hangover…but different.

My fourth miscarriage has felt markedly different from the others.  It has left me dangling off the edge of a cliff and feeling like I’m in a choose your own adventure story, not knowing what the ending is going to be.

A friend recently said that she sees me and my husband having another child.  When I broke it to her that he’s good and fixed, she asked if I regretted making such a swift decision to end our fertility future right after our last miscarriage.  I told her the honest truth – that fourth miscarriage was the best thing that could have happened to me and helped me create the change I desperately needed in my life.  But I went on to explain that, there is something that is still not resolved from that time two years ago.  I’m experiencing a kid cliffhanger.

My husband and I spent the better part of 2010 in endless conversations about if we wanted a third child or not.  We spun the conversation every way possible.  Was there someone missing from the dinner table?  What does Christmas look like 15 years from now?  How many grandchildren do we want?  Can we bank our future on just two boys or should we diversify the pool for success? What if one kid dies tragically and the other doesn’t have other siblings to fall back on?  I mean, we were getting REAL.  After nearly a year we decided with complete certainty that we did, in fact, have room in our hearts for another child.  Shortly after, we welcomed the positive pregnancy test and embraced the good news that a new baby was on the way.

Six weeks later we received the all too familiar bad news that the pregnancy was not looking good.  The doctor suggested I wait a week to see if things improved, but I knew deep down how it was going to end.  I had to go to St. Louis for work that week and ended up spending the time alone having a miscarriage and flushing our dreams of a third child away in a hotel bathroom.

The days and weeks following were a complete shock to me.  The emotions did not feel the same as my first three miscarriages.  Instead of the soul-crushing hopelessness that each previous loss had handed out, I felt a strange sense of relief after the initial sadness passed.  My coping mechanism was to shake everything up.  My husband marched straight to the urologist for a vasectomy.  Then I got a new job which gave me a totally new scene and a fresh cast of characters.  I started running again and I lost the weight I’d been trying to lose since my last baby.  Things were looking up.  I needed this change and the miscarriage helped me realize that.

It’s been exactly two years since that miscarriage.  So much has changed but the one thing that has remained constant is this unexplainable incomplete feeling.  It’s like my biological clock is on snooze, wondering when the alarm is going to go off again.  What men don’t understand about women who want children is that we can physically feel these fertility urges and desires.  It’s like there’s a sixth sense that lives inside of us and connects us to this energy for creating life.  I started creating life four times over and it was taken away before it could be realized in this world.  What does one do with that energy, that desire, that love for what could have been?  Create more life?  Channel that energy to enhance the lives of others?  Adopt?  The universe has been filled with my promises to have a third child, to have a family of five, to love and grow three children who will make this world a better place.  These wishes from two years ago are swirling out there and I’m struggling to fill in the blanks.

My friend asked me what I’m going to do.

I told her that she’ll have to wait and see…it’s a cliffhanger.

 

Peach Pie

14 Jul


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Peaches and dreams. That about sums up my experience making this pie. What was intended to be a simple summer pie ended up being a catalyst for summoning some of the best summer memories. As I was preparing my peaches, my mind wandered to the summer I spent working at a local road side fruit stand.

Pa’s Produce was located under a big tent across from a busy gas station at the edge of my small town. I spent that summer learning how to pick the ripest honeydew, stacking watermelons, and unloading boxes upon boxes of sweet corn. When it was time for southern peaches, the owner would hop in her big white pick-up truck and drive through the night to Georgia to pick up cases of peaches. We’d report to the tent and help her unload while word spread that the peaches had arrived. This was the height of the summer – those peaches were amazing. I’d stand at the table, opening the white cases branded with a big Georgia peach, taking each one out by hand so as not to cause any bruising. The smell was intoxicating and the taste was unlike any peach I have had since. Continue reading