Dulce de Leche Banana Cream Pie + Practicing My Purpose

"And a mess is still a moment I can seize until I know,

that all will be well.

Even though sometimes this is hard to tell,

and the fight is just as frustrating as hell,

all will be well."

- The Gabe Dixon Band

It’s been over two years since I started work on my pie goal and almost seven months since I made my last pie. Life was a bit of a whirlwind for a while after baby Abe was born, and making pie was just not a very high priority. He’s going to be six months old on Saturday, though, and he’s doing so great and we have a fairly solid routine down for the time being and last week I had a good reason to make a pie, so here I am to tell you about it.

When we were living in Seattle, my sisters and a few of our mutual girlfriends started getting together for regular dinners, partly inspired by this book. The first time I heard about their gatherings, I was ambivalent: so thankful that they all had each other and this wonderfully rich way to spend time together, but also so so sad that I didn’t get to be a part of it. They sent me this one night, though, and it lifted my spirits for at least a couple of days. So when my sister sent an email inviting me and the rest of the ladies for dinner a month ago, I was so excited I offered to make a pie.

The menu took shape as a Mexican meal, so I started looking for something along the lines of a Mexican pie for dessert. When I came across this recipe, I knew I’d found the one. It looked simple enough that I could probably pull off making it during naptimes, which was essentially my only criteria.

It wasn’t until I found myself looking for a can of Nestle La Lechera Dulce de Leche at the grocery store that I realized I was a little conflicted about serving this pie to people I love. I’m still not actually sure - because I didn’t want to look - what ingredients comprise Nestle La Lechera Dulce de Leche.

Ever since Abe started eating solid food, I’ve been struggling to make peace with my diet. Mostly because I don’t deny myself much of anything if I feel like eating it, and I’ve always believed that moderation is the key to generally staying healthy and not making oneself miserable. I absolutely believe that eating or drinking just the right thing at the right time can do more to improve my mental health than any medicine or other treatment. But now that I’m responsible for so many of those decisions on another (tiny, unwitting) person’s behalf, they feel so much more important. And I really don’t want to screw it up.

There have been days when I mentally beat myself up for not making all of Abe's fruit and vegetable purees from scratch in the food processor. I’ve had moments of feeling like a bad mom because, on occasion, he gets a bottle of formula instead of breastmilk. And when I start thinking about whether or not I want to be responsible for ever giving him something like a slice of pie made with Nestle La Lechera Dulce de Leche, well, you can imagine the inner turmoil.

I found myself in tears about it last night, telling Dann about the weight of all my little decisions that may or may not make my son grow up to become the man I hope he will be. And as soon as I’d spoken it out loud to him, I felt the weight dissipate. Because I know, ultimately, that who Abe grows up to be is so largely out of my hands. And for goodness sake, it’s so infinitely not dependent on what he eats as an infant. Not that I want to raise him on a steady diet of junk, but if he one day has a slice of pie with some weird, non-real food version of caramel sauce in it, it doesn’t mean he’s going to end up in prison. And as we talked about it, Gabe Dixon Band’s song ‘All Will Be Well’ played in the background on my Weepies Pandora station. I believe it was the Holy Spirit at work.

And this pie was a hit, even with the Nestle La Lechera Dulce de Leche, among a group of women I would certainly describe as healthy and food-conscious (we had these spaghetti squash and black bean tacos for dinner - YUM). Sometimes a little bit of dessert just doesn't hurt, and I'm here to tell you that it's okay to rest in the peace of knowing that all will be well.

Chocolate Pecan Ice Cream Pie + Makin' A Dragon Wanna Retire

“Dancing = vulnerability = joy. And that’s contagious.” - Brené Brown

I’m probably going to refer to this pie as Vera’s Pie from now on, even though its official name is Chocolate Pecan Ice Cream Pie with Bourbon Butterscotch and Pretzel Crust. It’s from this cookbook, and it was easier to make than I thought it would be but also quite possibly even more delicious than it looks in the photos.

When my sister Amy told me she wanted to visit me in Seattle before our baby comes, I was thrilled. The fact that she made it work to travel here alone with her 13-month-old daughter made me feel so loved and cared for, likely because my number one love language by far is quality time. I wanted to make sure they got to do everything they wanted to do while they were here, which Amy told me was mostly just to spend time with us and our cousins and meet our friends. I decided a spaghetti dinner was in order, and that I would make a special pie for dessert.

Now, I’m sure there’s some complicated culinary explanation that I’m unaware of, but whenever I think about the kind of dessert that should follow a meal made of pasta with red sauce, I think chocolate is the only way to go. It’s possible that the presence of red wine is often a factor I suppose, but when I think of serving, say, cherry pie after spaghetti, I think I’d rather skip dessert altogether. 


I’d been wanting to try out this pie, so I gathered the ingredients and worked on it little by little over the course of a few days, food processing the pretzels on Monday, making the chocolate covered nuts on Tuesday, and so on until our dinner on Thursday. You really should buy this book and get the recipe for yourself. I promise it’s worth it.

While we ate brunch after I picked Amy and Vera up from the airport, we were talking about how incredible it is that this little girl is growing into a real person, walking and talking and showing signs of her very own personality. Amy mentioned that when her husband dropped the two of them at the airport that morning they’d been discussing the fact that Vera trusts them so completely, and what a huge, weighty thing that is. I think it’s got to be one of the strangest parts of becoming a parent: the realization that you’re just you, the flawed and fallible person you’ve always been, yet in another human’s eyes you are mama or dada, which can mean the whole great big world.

One of my favorite things about little miss V is her entirely shameless love of dancing. So far she has about four moves, but they’re all as adorable and precious and hilarious as you’d imagine. I think my favorite is when she shoots both hands straight up into the air and rotates her hips from side to side. That one’s usually followed by a hands-in-the-air-clap-with-squat-to-the-beat. When she realized she could see herself dancing in our tv, she was mesmerized by her own moves, which I think is a pretty clear sign of total confidence. She’s still unaware of the fear of embarrassment, from what I could tell, and it was so much fun to witness her joy.

I also knocked another item off of my Seattle bucket list with the help of Amy and Vera. We didn’t go to the Space Needle for the Macklemore/pirate flag dance party (in part because, apparently, the Space Needle hasn’t given its employees raises in four years), but we sure did go out on the docks at Fisherman’s Terminal and dance around with a pirate flag in the rain. Well, Amy and I danced. Vera sort of stood there stunned, trying to figure out where we were and what the boats and the water were all about.

We hit Pike Place and the Seattle Aquarium, and made sure to take a walk down to the Ballard Locks. Vera entertained herself for hours by pulling bottles of vitamins out of a bin in our bathroom and carrying them around, shaking them to the beat of her own little drum. We had a dance party at least once a day, always to the tune of Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’

And although Vera didn’t get to have any of the pie this time, I sort of decided that this pie and this visit were going to mark a commitment to remembering her dancing and her vulnerability and her JOY, to remembering that there isn’t anything to fear. It really is contagious.  

So here’s to you, sweet girl. May your dancing and your joy inspire countless others you will meet in your lifetime. And when you find yourself feeling afraid, come over for a slice of pie and some uptown funk.  

Chocolate Black-Bottom Pie + Growing Someone Else's Bones

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" - Luke 1:46/47

There’s something about the season of Advent that makes me feel like a kid again. I think I’ve always felt a sense of wonder at the anticipation and mystery of what Christmas will bring, even if it was strongly tied to Santa and presents when I was young. For a number of years, it was related to the overwhelming excitement I felt at getting to spend Christmas at Crooked Creek Ranch with so many of my favorite people.

This year feels different.

In some ways, the last few months have been really hard. For a while I felt cloudy-headed and a little bit lost and afraid that I would never feel like myself again (thanks, pregnancy hormones!). I worried anew that life would never be as good as it was during our last few years in Denver.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve started to recognize the work that God is doing in my heart and mind and soul and, even though it’s hard, it is so good.      

When we saw our little baby boy’s body moving around in my belly for the first time on the 20 week ultrasound, it was as surreal as I imagined it would be. There were two femurs and two humeri and ten fingers and all four chambers of another human being’s tiny beating heart. There was a little button nose that sort of makes him look like Charlie Brown from the side.

It was a holy and sacred moment, and the fact that Advent started just over a week later made it especially significant for me. Even though the temptation to try and be the perfect mom is so very real already, I’ve been learning that, at the end of all things, my deepest desire is that my soul would magnify the Lord. I feel a special kinship with Mary and Elizabeth when I imagine the two of them, pregnant, feeling the bones of their babies moving around inside of them, rejoicing over God’s mercy for those who fear Him.      

So when Dann forwarded me a work email last week asking for volunteers to bring dinner to a co-worker who just had a baby, I jumped at the chance to care for the new little family in one of my favorite ways. The fact that they specifically said they like Italian food and pie made it clear what we were supposed to do.

Dann whipped up a batch of his famous spaghetti and meatballs and I put together a Martha Stewart Chocolate Black-Bottom Pie, and we drove up to the house one night after he got done working. 

Since we don’t really know the best way to get everywhere yet, we ended up taking an accidental tour of the homes around Green Lake. So many of them were decorated with Christmas lights, though, and it reminded me why we were doing what we were doing. 

I’m looking forward to feeling the sense of wonder at the anticipation and mystery of what meeting the little buddy inside me will bring, even after this Advent season is over.   

Every Stranger's Face I See

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Last weekend Dann and I drove out to Snoqualmie Falls, in part because we’d heard it was beautiful and also because it was 85 degrees outside all weekend, which meant it was borderline life-threatening in our apartment. We snapped a few pictures of the waterfall and had brunch at the hotel restaurant there. Then we drove back to our neighborhood and saw the movie Boyhood, which put me over the homesick edge. I was miserably sad for the next 24 hours. I think it’s finally sunk in that we’re not on a trip, that this is where we live now. And as much as I believe we’re in Seattle for the right reasons and that there are good things for us here, I miss the place I still think of as home. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss the mountains. I miss the way a Lamar’s cake donut is perfectly soft and delicious on the inside but just a little crispy-crunchy on the bottom because the air is so dry in Denver.  

I miss this little girl like crazy:

I've been surprised by the realization that leaving the place I've known as home for the first time ever at age 32 is not easy - in fact, it’s been much harder than I anticipated. I’ve only been here for three months, so I know a lot can happen (and I trust that it will), but lately I've been having a hard time imagining a life here that's as good as the life I knew in Denver. I suppose you could say I’m grieving.

And because sometimes I am a drama queen, on the hardest days I watch this and just cry and cry:

The good news is we get to visit Colorado in just over a week and we'll be able to spend time with some of the people I've been missing most. There's something about knowing the trip is on the calendar that makes me feel a little bit more hopeful about being here now.

I came across a tweet from Donald Miller yesterday that said, "Every healthy thing grows and changes. Nothing stays the same unless it's dead. Let's stop resisting change. God invented change." So while I might be sad for a little while longer, I'm glad to know that growing through all this change is a good indication that I'm healthy and that I'm alive.     

Blueberry Pies + Throwing My Neighborhood In The Air

Monday marks eight weeks since I arrived in Seattle. Eight weeks! It feels like it’s gone by fast, but also it’s sort of hard to tell because I’ve felt pretty out of my element since I got here, if I’m honest.


Can I be honest? Making pie is about the most normal thing I’ve done since I got here. Most days I still feel like I’m on a trip and that eventually we’re going to make our way back home to Denver and life will pick back up where we left it. As though I’ve just been on summer vacation and in a matter of days/weeks I’ll be headed back to life as I knew it before the school year ended. (Shout out to all my teacher friends who are already back at it.)

One thing I’ve struggled with more than I’d like to admit is feeling afraid in the place I live now. We’re in the city, so understandably there’s a moderate amount of crime, but our building management seems unconcerned about keeping us in the loop when something like a bike storage break-in happens. At our building in Denver, when someone tried to break into the bike storage, the building management chased him down, took his picture, and posted it all over the building so everyone was informed and aware. The fact that this place is still so unfamiliar makes me feel anxiety more often than peace and comfort, which is a tough place to be. I may or may not have been wide awake at 3am the other night, searching for new places to live on craigslist. Our lease doesn’t end until May.


In the meantime, I’m choosing to get out and familiarize myself with my neighborhood. I registered for a self defense course because I figure it never hurts to be empowered and prepared. I was also admitted to the Seattle Police Department’s Community Police Academy, which I’m hoping will help me learn enough about the city to start feeling more comfortable here. 

I’m trying to be mindful of Isaiah 41:13, too, because I believe that it's true.

I am the Lord your God

who takes hold of your right hand

and says to you, Do not fear;

I will help you.

And I’m pretty sure it was the Holy Spirit that made Ice Cube’s ‘Friday’ come up on my Pandora station the other day when I was walking home alone. Something about the words “Throw ya neighborhood in the air/if ya don’t care” made me feel notably more confident as I made my way through the neighborhood. Maybe it was really just the bangin' beat, but whatever it was, it worked. (Is it a coincidence that Ice Cube is sporting a Mariners hat and jersey in the video? I don't think so.)


Luckily, we’re meeting people and making friends and that helps. And we’ve got family just up the road, too, which makes it feel like everything’s going to be okay. I bought a half flat of blueberries at the farmer’s market last weekend, and I’ve made two different blueberry pies in the last couple of weeks. The berries are delicious, and the fact that we’ve had plans with enough people to necessitate multiple pies recently brings me great joy. Here's hoping this place continues to feel more like home over time. Until then, I'll try to be brave and just keep throwing my neighborhood in the air.

Both of the pies in this post were made from recipes I found on Bon Apetit's website, Peach Blueberry Ice Cream Pie and Blueberry Crumble Pie

Allergen-Free Chocolate Mousse Pie + The Secret To Survivin'

Every gambler knows

that the secret to survivin' 

is knowin' what to throw away

and knowin' what to keep

'Cause every hand's a winner

and every hand's a loser

and the best that you can hope for

is to die in your sleep

- Kenny Rogers, 'The Gambler'

I’ve been in survival mode a little bit lately.

Between trying to finish the school year strong and preparing for a cross-country move, the rest of life has felt extra busy but also extra significant. I’m exhausted, but I don’t want to miss out on anything because very soon I won’t live here anymore and then I won’t be able to do the things even if I’m feeling totally energized. I keep telling myself: “You can sleep when you’re dead.”

So when I found out I would miss my sister Amy’s birthday party while we were in the mountains last weekend, I was bummed. We haven’t been together to celebrate either of our birthdays for years, and I think we both thought this would be one of the first. She wasn’t mad, but it was one of the only things that I’ve actually had to miss because I can’t literally be in two places at once. Sometimes, if I could I would. Mental health be damned. 

I decided I’d stay up late the night before we left and make a special birthday pie that I could drop off for the party on our way out of town. I figured it would be a sufficient contribution in my absence. I didn’t figure I’d have to track down non-hydrogenated shortening and dairy-free chocolate chips, but I’m doing all kinds of new things these days, so why not?

Amy was recently told by her pediatrician that she should cut eggs, dairy, soy, and nuts out of her diet in order to figure out whether or not her girl Vera has a food allergy. So I was in search of a pie that didn’t call for butter or eggs or milk or nuts or anything made with soy. But I wanted something that still tasted like life and celebration and a little bit of indulgence.


So I turned to the homie over at Oh, Ladycakes and found just what I was looking for. I used dairy-free chocolate chips, soy-free pretzel sticks, and straight coconut milk in the mousse, but otherwise I followed her recipe exactly. The finished pie looked pretty good, but I didn’t taste it before dropping it off for the party. I just crossed my fingers and hoped it would make my sister feel special.

If I had to choose one thing to do with the rest of my time in Denver, it would be to spend every day with my sister and her little girl. I would go to their house and just be there, helping if I could, holding the baby as much as possible, trying to make sure she doesn't forget about me. When Amy moved back to Denver last summer (after living in Philly for 3 years), I wasn't working and we had all sorts of plans for what our days together would look like once the baby came. I think there's a part of me that's still grieving the loss of that time we thought we'd have together. When I think about being so far away from the two of them, it makes me even more sad.

After arriving in the mountains last weekend, I received a text message from an unnamed source that said: "Your pie is the tits! Happy birthday to Amy!" along with the photo of her blowing out the candles. I felt a pang of sadness seeing people I loved all together celebrating one of my all-time favorite humans, but I was relieved and glad to know that the pie was a winner. Later that night, 'The Gambler' came on the Pandora station we were listening to, and I immediately thought of Amy and smiled. She LOVED that song when we were kids. I'm pretty sure she used to listen to it on repeat on my dad's record player.

If there's one thing I'm learning these days, it's that the pain of leaving the places and people I love the most is a good indication that maybe I've been doing something right. And as much as I love 'The Gambler', I think Kenny Rogers may have gotten one thing wrong. I don't think the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep (though that is how I've always said I wanted to go out). I've had the honor and privilege of being Amy's sister for the last 31 years, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Happy birthday seester!

Salted Bourbon Caramel Banana Cream Pie + Things I've Never Done

"Sleep don't visit, so I choke on sun

and the days blur into one

And the backs of my eyes hum with the things I've never done"

- Radical Face, Welcome Home

Three years ago, when Dann and I were first married and living in Boulder, we would blast this song every time he came home from being on the road with the band. I have one very distinct memory of an early evening drive from the airport back over the hill on highway 36, springtime sunshine illuminating the faces of the flatirons, while we belted out the words “welcome home” with all the windows down.


If there’s one thing I’ve learned about married life, it’s that sometimes it doesn’t look the way you hope or expect it to and that the best you can do is show up, say what you mean, and be willing to make real sacrifices. It’s been both the hardest and best thing I’ve done in my life so far, and I consider myself lucky that I get to experience it with my favorite person in all the world.

So when Dann was offered a fantastic job in Seattle just over a month ago, it wasn’t at all what either of us was hoping for or expecting. And yet, there it was. Quite suddenly, the opportunity to move to a new city, to try new things and meet new people and have new adventures together. It wasn’t easy to imagine leaving Denver - I've never lived anywhere outside of Colorado and I LOVE this city - but we decided that now is always the best time to try something new, and he accepted the job. We’re planning to move once school gets out in June.

I made this pie for Dann a couple of weeks ago, when he was headed back to Denver from Seattle after his first two weeks on the job (he’s alternating two weeks here with two weeks there until I’m done with school). I hadn't slept well while he was gone, thinking about everything there is to think about after making such a big decision and then having to be separate from one another. I wanted to welcome him home with something special, plus he doesn’t usually get to share in the pie goodness. I figured celebrating an occasion this momentous called for a fancy pie. And although this one didn't end up looking quite how I hoped or expected it to, it was damn good and well worth the work. 

Blackberry Jam Hand Pies + Bearing The Weight

“Women who bear the weight of opposition, she wrote, create a shelter for the rest of us.”

- Sue Monk Kidd, Traveling With Pomegranates


More than any other woman I know, my mom has fought hard all her life to create a shelter for the rest of us. She birthed five children all her own (mostly without medication, one who came out ass-first) and raised us all to be upstanding, moral citizens with proper grammar. Time will tell if she can claim to have raised five college graduates, but the baby just aced his Calc 3 midterm, so nobody’s worried.


If you’ve ever met her, you know my mom really enjoys taking care of people. She loves having guests at her house, feeding them, making sure they’re comfortable. She’s been known to exchange her own relaxation and peace of mind for the comfort and care of others. And one thing I’ve never doubted for my whole life: that my mom would do just about anything to take the weight of whatever opposition came my way - physical, emotional, spiritual - in order to create a shelter for me. She’s a fierce mama bear in the truest sense.


When my sister’s baby was born last month, my mom was the most excited. So excited, in fact, that she left her feet momentarily in the hospital parking lot because a) it was icy and b) she was in such a hurry to get inside. We didn’t know whether the baby was a boy or a girl until she was born, and my sister and brother-in-law chose to name little Vera after my maternal grandmother. My mom lost it as she told us the baby’s birthday was also the anniversary of my grandma’s death. It was one of the most special things I’ve ever witnessed.


So when my dad asked if I could make dessert for my mom's birthday dinner last weekend, I knew a special pie was in order. (I bought a ravioli stamp recently after reading this post, in hopes that it would solve the age-old mystery of filling:crust ratio in a hand pie. It did not, but no one complained.) I wanted my mom to feel special and celebrated, to feel appreciated for all the ways she's worked to shelter me for my whole life. 

Here's to you, mama. I'm glad you were born.

Mile High Chocolate + Having It All

“In many countries, having it all is learning to read. Having it all is getting to choose whom you love. Having it all is walking to school without worrying that you might get raped on the way." -Delia Ephron, "Bakeries"


Last Saturday started with a cup of coffee and an essay entitled "Bakeries" by Delia Ephron, from her book Sister Mother Husband Dog. In this essay (adapted version here), Ephron details the delight she finds in the freedom and ability to visit an array of New York bakeries when she has a hankering for something sweet. She then calls out the decidedly American struggle to “have it all” that so many women write/talk/worry about for what it is - simply complaining.


She writes: "One of the most revolting parts about the American female version — and there are many — is that having it all defines “all” one way: marriage, children, career. It assumes all women want the same thing. Success rests on achieving three goals (life viewed not as a continuum, but an endpoint), and these goals, as it happens, are exactly the ones that will declare you a success at your high school reunion." 

Now, obviously I would like to be among the people declared a success at my high school reunion. I've always wanted to fit in and I've always wanted to be good at things. When it comes to this weird American woman trifecta, however, I'm less and less convinced that it's something I could sanely handle, let alone something I actually want.


Dann was out of town last Saturday and I could feel an isolation pity party coming on, so instead of spending the day overanalyzing my life choices and whether or not I will ever "have it all", I decided to make a pie to take to the football-watching party I was invited to on Sunday. The Broncos were playing in the AFC championship, so I googled "Mile High Pie" and found this recipe from Bon Apétit. 


On my way to pick up the pie ingredients, I stopped at the mall and spent more money than I should have on newborn baby clothes for my new niece. I justified it by telling myself she’s not mine so I don’t have to do it regularly, that I just get to spoil her without fear that I might be raising a spoiled child. I was beside myself with delight, having it all.

As I finished putting together the pie crust, my mom called to ask if I could head over and take care of making dinner for my sister and her husband, the new parents. Of course I went, new baby clothes in hand, and offered to help however I could. For nearly two straight hours, I held the beautiful sleeping baby, having it all.   


And then I came home to finish the pie. It was after midnight when I got done, but it didn’t matter. I had a deep peace about my life in those hours spent beating the egg whites, melting the chocolate, whipping the cream. I have a comfortable home, a functional kitchen, a killer new rolling pin that my mom gave me for Christmas, friends who invited me over to watch a football game, family that cares to see me, and the most precious gift - the tiny little life that I held in my arms while her mama and papa took a well-deserved nap. I went to sleep that night satisfied, having it all. 

Sweet Potato Pie + Harvesting Light


Did you know that pie crust is typically made of flour, salt, sugar, and butter? A splash of cold water or possibly (in the case of this pie) a bit of buttermilk? I’m a tiny bit amazed every time I bake a pie at how simple the crust is. Just a few plain ingredients, the right amount of mixing, and voila! A new and remarkable thing.


As I put this pie together last week, I realized that Christmas is close and it feels different to me this year than it has for a long time. When I was a sophomore in college, my aunts and uncles and cousins on my dad’s side of our family started this tradition of spending Christmas at a cabin in the mountains. It was something I looked forward to all year every year, and I always felt my most content while I was there.


Then, as college kids do, my cousins and siblings and I grew up and married people and moved to new parts of the country, and started having babies. And this year, for the first time since I was a sophomore in college, my family isn’t spending Christmas at that cabin in the mountains. (We were sort of starting to outgrow it…) When it hit me full force in my feelings last week while I made this pie, I suddenly felt terribly sad.


I started to lament the fact that the story of this pie would be a sad, fractured one, me telling you all about how it doesn’t really feel like Christmas and how some of my family seems so far away and how even hearing Bing Crosby sing White Christmas wasn’t making a difference. 


But then Ingrid Michaelson’s voice came through on Pandora’s Christmas Radio, and I immediately started weeping and laughing and (almost) jumping with joy. Because you see, Ingrid Michaelson will always make me think of my brother and sister-in-law, who danced to one of her songs at their wedding for the first time as husband and wife. And on the day I made this pie, they were one week away from the scheduled date of arrival of their firstborn baby. It suddenly didn’t matter anymore that I’d been feeling sad, because the overwhelming joy I felt just imagining the little life getting ready to make its entrance here, on earth, was all I could contain in those moments that followed. And Ingrid (and Sara Bareilles) sang:


I still believe in summer days

the seasons always change

and life will find a way


Ill be your harvester of light

and send it out tonight

so we can start again


Is love alive?

Is love alive?

Is love alive?


I wanted to shout at the dang iPad, “Yes! Yes, Ingrid! Love IS alive!” 


Instead I finished the pie with a smile on my face, dreaming about who the baby would be, whether it would be a boy or a girl (I thought boy all along), what he/she would look like, and making peace with the fact that families grow and change and leave and come home, and that at the center of it all is love that’s ALIVE.


PS - Baby Jay was born this morning at 8:21 eastern time, weighing 6 lbs and 10 oz, and measuring 21.5 inches long. To say I love him already would be a gross understatement. I'm amazed. A new and remarkable thing indeed.

Apple Pie + Bumbling About Joy

"Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” 

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


If my last pie was a big fat fail, this one was a hilarious happy accident.

My sweet cousin Calee invited me, along with all the other girls from our generation of the family, over to her house for dinner last week and I figured it was the perfect occasion for a good, from-scratch apple pie. I had most of the day to put it together, bake it, let it cool. I even recently purchased an apple corer/slicer. I was prepared. I was confident. I was ready for a pie comeback.

The day before this dinner party, I’d tried to buy tickets to the Iron and Wine show at The Paramount, but it was sold out (even though none of the websites I’d been keeping an eye on—artist, venue, ticket merchant—said it was sold out). I spent about ten minutes feeling really bummed out about it. Then I posted something about wanting tickets on twitter and facebook and decided to let it go, figuring if it was meant to work out it would. I didn’t go so far as to pray specifically that God would give me tickets even though, yes, sometimes I convince myself that might be how it actually works.

While I gathered my pie supplies, a friend replied to my facebook status and put me in contact with one of her colleagues who had a pair of tickets she wasn’t going to use. In the blink of an eye, I’d paid for them with Square Cash and was giddy with excitement about getting to go. It felt like a true sign of the presence of God and it put me in a pretty good pie-making mood.


Since I’ve had a few bad experiences as the result of not taking the time to read a recipe all the way through, I read this one multiple times and even read a handful of the “helpful” reviews. I planned to use “a complete top crust with designer slits cut into it” in place of the lattice top. I added cinnamon and nutmeg and vanilla to the sugar syrup (which I would absolutely do again - Dann said the smell of it cooking on the stovetop made him dizzy it smelled so good), and “mixed half of the syrup with the apples themselves before putting in the pie crust”. 

I poured the syrup-coated apples into the bottom crust and placed the top crust over them after carefully cutting designer slits into it.

This is where things sort of went wrong.

Because I sometimes lose all common sense when attempting to follow directions perfectly, I poured the other half of the syrup on top of the pie. I got about point five seconds into the pouring before it occurred to me that I’d crossed my wires and mixed up the reviews and pouring syrup on top of a complete top crust is not a thing people do and that maybe the whole pie was ruined before it even made it into the oven. The designer slits were no longer visible.

I put the pie in the oven anyway, because I figured the worst thing that would happen is that it would look ugly. Then I panicked and made Dann look at it and tell me if he thought the syrup on top would burn and/or start a fire. He told me to keep an eye on it, then said: “You know, when you try a new recipe maybe it’s a good idea to stick to the original directions the first time, without making any adjustments. Then you have a control.”


He was right, though, and I’ll probably heed his advice when trying new recipes in the future. When I pulled the pie out of the oven, this is what it looked like:


I told myself it might not be edible and that I might need to stop and buy a pie on my way to dinner because I didn’t have enough time to start over. I spent about ten minutes feeling really bummed out about it. Then Dann told me he believed it was possible the pie could be even better than it would have been had I made it correctly, and I decided to let it go.

Later that night, I cut into my inside out apple pie and passed slices around to some of my favorite women in all the world, hoping it wouldn’t gross them out or make them sick. And you know what? That shit was good. I may have eaten both leftover slices the next day while preparing to sit and listen to Sam Beam singing “it's a heartfelt silly sort of bumbling tune about how you're bringing me joy”.


These are the moments I cling to as evidence of the presence of God: when a show I didn’t think I’d see and a pie I was certain I’d ruined turn into the best parts of days filled with joy.    

Apple Cider Cream Pie + Making My Soul Grow


I had a serious pie fail recently. I wasn’t sure how to tell you about it until now.

I have this tendency to think if I can’t do something perfectly, I shouldn’t try to do it at all. I spent a lot of years worrying about what other people think about who I am and what I do, and it’s still something I have to fight against, to be sure. As I continue to get older and know myself better, though, the less concerned I am with what other people think. This freedom is definitely one of my favorite things about aging, so far.

So this pie did not work out like I hoped it would. I burned the crust. I’m pretty sure the cider was still hot when I added the rest of the ingredients to it, so instead of a nice creamy custard I ended up with a sort of clumpy, frittata-like filling. I didn’t even whip the cream to put on top, because I thought it would be a waste. The pie tasted terrible, as you may have guessed from the photo. And I haven’t tried making another pie since.

Over the weekend, though, I got my pie mojo back. It was because of Kurt Vonnegut and a tap dance routine.

My tap teacher asked me weeks ago if I would be up for performing during Denver Arts Week with her and the other instructors at the studio where I take my tap class, and of course I agreed. I figured if I could learn the steps and have enough time to practice, I could probably pull it off.

But oh my, were those steps fast. And even though I’d been practicing, I didn’t feel confident about my ability to do the routine perfectly when I woke up on Saturday morning, so I practiced for a straight hour in my kitchen. At one point, someone banged on a shared wall, rattling my nerves and making me want to give up. I actually told Dann there was a tiny part of me that wanted to back out and just stay home. He told me to stop being ridiculous.

As I finished getting ready, Dann asked if he could read me this letter from one of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut. The whole thing is certainly worth reading but this is the passage that got to me, that gave me the courage to decide “I got this. It’s just a little tap dancing in front of strangers.” Vonnegut says:

“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.”

I arrived at the performance ready to experience becoming, and I have to say, it was absolutely worthwhile. I didn’t do every step perfectly, but I did most of them and I truly had fun. People applauded and no one yelled at me and after we were done with the performance we WALKED ON STILTS. I think my soul grew three sizes that afternoon. 

When I woke up the next day, I decided it was time to move on from the failed pie. I mean, I made it, so it still counts toward my total of 100. Just because it wasn’t perfect and didn’t taste good and ultimately ended up in the garbage doesn’t mean it didn't happen. I'm thankful for all of these things coming together on Saturday, and I'm excited for the next pie, to experience becoming some more.   

Lemon Blueberry Pie + The Price Of Tulips

"Sometimes I say I’m going to meet my sister at the cafe

even though I have no sister—just because it’s such

a beautiful thing to say."

- Karin Gottshall, 'More Lies


There’s something about having a sister that I’ve never been able to put into words. My sisters are probably the two people who know me best in the world, and I’m constantly thankful for my relationships with each of them. I truly like them both and enjoy their company, but I’m also aware that if they’re ever upset or annoyed or frustrated with me, they won’t be shy about saying so. I also know I can count on them to call me on my own bullshit, when I’m acting selfish or immature or unkind.

So when I offered to make a birthday pie for my sister Kate while we were in Telluride, I knew it would have to be a special pie.

Luckily, I had just the idea waiting in my back pocket.


While I was looking for the best place to go for my own birthday meal, I came across a lemon meringue pie on the dessert menu at Fruition and I almost went there for dinner just so I could try it. In the end, I opted for brunches with girlfriends at a couple of other fun places, but I didn’t forget about that pie. I decided I’d try my own version when the time was right.


I used this crust, this lemon curd, and this blueberry compote. For a first try, I’d say this pie turned out pretty well. I’d like to try it again with the meringue and fresh blueberries, but overall I think it worked out better than I thought it would.

And while making pie in a foreign kitchen wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, it was a treat to get to bake with my mom and sisters there on the other side of the kitchen counter, watching the Broncos beat up on the Jaguars.

Such a beautiful thing to say, indeed. 

Peach Custard + Smiling To Keep The Sky From Falling

I'll do a dance to make the rain come
Smile to keep the sky from falling down, down, down, down
Collect the love that I've been given
Build a nest for us to sleep in here, you know it's real

- St. Vincent, 'All My Stars Aligned' 


It's cool and cloudy here this morning, and it's supposed to be rainy for the rest of the week. Dann left to go on tour with these nice folks yesterday, so I'm here in Denver experiencing the first true signs of fall alone. I don't mind it, really.   

Last week I had some blogger friends over for a meeting of sorts. We brainstormed and planned and laughed and ate pie and I’m excited to tell you more when the time is right. For now, let me tell you about baking this pie while listening to St. Vincent


I came across the recipe on Melanie's blog and decided I'd have to try it. It's a pie, but without a traditional pie crust. I figured it would be just the right kind of easy.


One thing I learned as a result of making this pie is how to blanch peaches. It made peeling the peaches a snap, and it really wasn't complicated. If you're ever in need of a tutorial, this is the one I used


While I put this pie together, I listened to St. Vincent's Marry Me, which is my favorite of her albums. She's such a talented songwriter and lyricist; I'm always pleased to remember that I own her stuff and can listen to it over and over. Turns out she's also a bit of a comedian.

Happy Tuesday to you. Keep smiling. 

Blackberry Raspberry Hand Pies + Blaming The Boogie


Remember my bake sale for books?

One of my sisters purchased a dozen cupcakes that I had up for sale, and she finally asked me to make them for her a week ago. Since I’m now working toward my goal of making 100 different kinds of pie, I convinced her that some individual hand pies would be way more exciting than cupcakes. I chose this Martha recipe and got to work.


I found myself at home alone last week while Dann was working in Chicago and for some reason I listened to a LOT of Michael Jackson while he was gone. I’m not sure what prompted it (though I suspect it may have been Mindy Kaling’s tweet about the song ‘Human Nature’), but I was on an MJ kick the likes of which I had never known. I experienced a wave of what I would call actual despair as I watched this video and realized I will never have the opportunity to see him perform in person. 


I bebopped around my kitchen for hours listening to The Essential Michael Jackson and putting these little treats together, and I was so pleased when they came out of the oven. They were not quick or easy, but the hard work definitely paid off in the end. I tasted one with some vanilla ice cream while it was still warm and wished I could keep them all. There's just something about a berry pie. 


Here's to Michael and Martha and taking time to do things well.

Frozen Lime Pie + Giving Up Neurosis

"The point wasn't about the recipes. The point (I was starting to realize) was about making people feel at home, about finding your own style, whatever it was, and committing to it. The point was about giving up neurosis where food was concerned. The point was about finding a way that food fit into your life." -Nora Ephron, 'Serial Monogamy


Last week, as I searched for a good pie to take to an outdoor summer barbecue at my friend Niki’s house, I came across Nora Ephron’s Frozen Key Lime Pie on Martha Stewart’s website and I knew it was the one.


Now, a bit of background on my friend Niki. She and I were college roommates, and we have always loved throwing parties together. In college, we rented a huge television from Rent-A-Center for one week (I don’t think they were supposed to let us do that) when we had a party for the Big 12 Championship. Niki taught me how to remove the pit from an avocado, and I made my first bowl of guacamole. 

When we lived in the same building in Denver after college, we had a winter celebration pre-party before heading to the Parade of Lights. The party mainly consisted of walking into Niki’s studio to get a bowl of her famous green chili, then crossing the hall into my one bedroom to find a seat and the rest of the food. I thought making hot chocolate with milk for everyone to take to the parade would be a good idea. We didn’t plan for it to take over an hour to warm up enough milk for all our guests on my tiny gas stove. 

One year, for our birthdays (they’re only one week apart), we made one hundred cupcakes for what we thought was going to be a fun picnic at the park. It poured rain all day and we had to make a last-minute decision to move the party to a local pub. 


Niki and I have certainly shared some neurosis-inducing entertaining experiences in our days as friends. And yet we both love inviting people into our homes in order to share a good meal, stressful as it can be.

So when I came across Nora’s pie on Martha’s site, I couldn’t help but imagine the two of them like the two of us: good pals, sharing something delicious with each other and the world.


So the pie. My local grocery store didn’t have key limes, so I went with regular limes. Apparently key lime juice can be found in a bottle most anywhere, but I decided that juice from freshly squeezed regular limes would probably taste better than key lime juice from a bottle. I had no basis for this decision, but I made it and went with it.

One of my problems with pie is that if you make one to take to a party, you can’t really taste it before you serve it to make sure it tastes good. I typically like to taste things before I serve them to other people, so I can know what I’m feeding them and, honestly, because Gordon Ramsay always gets mad at the people on Kitchen Nightmares who don't taste their own food. 

So when we showed up at Niki’s on Saturday night, I had a pie I felt a little nervous about serving since I hadn’t exactly followed the recipe or tasted the thing, and Niki had burgers on her grill.

Then came the torrential downpour.

It rained hard for close to an hour. Dann ran back and forth to the grill with an umbrella, saving the food. We put the corn in a pot of boiling water on the stovetop, and broiled the burgers in the oven. All the guests got comfy in the kitchen and living room. It was a typical party experience involving myself and Niki. It wasn’t what we’d all been expecting, but it was still a super good time. 


Oh, and my frozen regular lime pie?

It was a hit.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie + The Function Of Prayer

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” -Søren Kierkegaard


One of the best things I've already learned about baking pies is that it is not difficult to make a pie crust from scratch. It really only involves flour, salt, butter, cold water, and the littlest bit of patience. I've found, too, that mixing the dough by hand is the best way to tell when it's done, when the consistency is right and it's ready to be chilled. 


Last week, as I stood in the kitchen with my bare hand in a bowl full of flour and salt and butter, I found myself deep in prayer. First for the family I was making the pie for, then for everyone and everything else that was on my mind. It was a sweet couple of hours alone in the kitchen, cutting up the fruit, measuring out the sugar, zesting the orange. It slowed me down in a way that made it easy to turn my thoughts toward the one who made me. 


Sometimes I think that preparing food to share with other people is one of the holiest things I know how to do. It's a way of being generous with my time and my talents. It's a way of connecting to the people I call my community. It's a way of meeting an actual physical need that we all share, no matter our differences. 


I’m learning there is so little that I actually need in order to be content day to day. Putting this pie together helped me see it a bit more clearly, and will serve as a good reminder when I need it down the road. It was a joy to make, in the truest sense.


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Recipe from Magnolia Bakery via The Huffington Post

Sharing The Mighty: Cherry Pie Edition


So here’s the deal.

One of the goals on my bucket list (and my Go Mighty profile) is to bake 100 different kinds of pie. This is a lifetime goal. I’d like to bake 100 different kinds of pie before I die. I’d really like to not die for many many years, so I’m not in a rush to get too crazy with the pies (I once baked a zillion different kinds of cupcakes in a year and that was dumb.) Summertime is a good time for pie, though, so you may see a lot of pie here in the coming weeks.

Before I put this goal on my list, I had already made a banana cream pie, homemade home run pies, a pumpkin pie, and a pecan pie. Maybe the goal should have been to make 96 different kinds of pie. 


My friend Hannah made a summer bucket list after she got done teaching and one of her goals was to make a cherry pie from scratch. When I read this, I decided immediately that we should tackle this one together. (I invited Hannah into the mighty once before, and it worked out brilliantly). So I found a recipe, Hannah picked up the cherries and a pitter, our friend Mary came over to take some of the photos, and we got to work.

I have to say, this was a time-consuming pie. I had to make the dough for the crust twice, because I accidentally killed the first batch by trying to take a shortcut via the food processor (never trust a shortcut in baking, friends). We couldn’t find sour cherries, so we used regular bings with a lot of lemon juice. We had to watch a tutorial on how to make a lattice top crust. We didn’t leave the pie in the oven long enough, so it was a bit more liquidy than we would have liked.


It didn’t fall apart, though.

It tasted delicious.

And it looked lovely both before and after we baked it, so we got a lot of good photos.


My favorite thing about this pie is that it was a collaborative labor of love. Through the long process of making it, I got to spend a summer afternoon with a couple of ladies whose company I enjoy very much, talking about life and love and what it’s all about. If the 95 remaining pies are as satisfying to make as this one was, I definitely won't be disappointed.