Saturday, May 26, 2012

A favorite pie for a favorite person

I found the tonic that cures all blues: deeply breathing in a sugar and spice mixture while listening to Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line.”  Just try to do that without smiling, I dare you!  

Like all great discoveries (i.e. penicillin and chocolate chip cookies), I discovered this cure-for-sadness accidentally.  At the exact moment that I was mixing sugar, cinnamon, ginger, clove and nutmeg, Pandora played some Belafonte for me.  This is instant happiness.  The intoxicating smell of pumpkin pie baking in the (toaster) oven, though, could be an antidepressant in its own right.  

This discovery is only more appropriate since I was making the pie (my favorite variety) for one of my favorite people, one who also brings a smile to my face without fail. Happy early birthday, my friend, I will deliver it tomorrow!

Because it’s delicious and what my mom always made at Thanksgiving and doesn’t stray far from Martha Stewart’s recipe, I use the recipe on the back of the pumpkin can, and add nutmeg, ‘cause it’s my fave.  This recipe makes two pies, always has and always will – I don’t know why they don’t admit that in the recipe – which is a bonus at Thanksgiving (and today, since it allowed me to taste and photograph and share with yet another favorite person!).

I also used a store bought pie crust for this pie, because my teensy apartment countertop doesn’t lend itself to the fraisage – the technique that ensures a perfectly flaky pate brisee.  (Oh Julia, how I adore you!)

I know its Memorial Day weekend and most people are probably making fruit pies in honor of seasonality and American-ness.  But Thanksgiving and pumpkin are as American as apple pi… urgh… as baseball, right?  Besides, the last pumpkin pie I made met an early demise; I needed a redo.

Happy remembering! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Oh, the places you'll go

Confession: I public transit.  It’s true.  Actually, if I could walk everywhere, I would.  But, public transit with its stress-free, uncontrollable pace and interesting life and convenience is a great second choice.  Also, you can learn a lot from public transit, even bad public transit. 
Life Lessons from MARTA:

        This train is bound for… (ding, ding). There is an automated message that tells you the end destination of the train you just jumped on to.  This message is meant to assure you that you are going in the right direction.  However, most of the time, the driver shuts the door and cuts the message short at the last moment.  You’re pretty sure you are headed in the right direction, but there’s always that thought, “Is this the right way?”

Trust that you made the right move.  And if you didn’t, well, there’s always another stop and another train.

         Unclear, probably critical, special notices. There are announcements that come over the intercom in MARTA stations.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you what they say.  Single tracking starting at what station?  All patrons at what station should plan to wait another 2 hours?  What?  Wait, what????

Sometimes there are probably signs that things are not going to go as planned.  It’s ok if you don’t always understand. No one else does either.

          Oh the people you will meet. An astrologist who has a day job at Grady because it’s hard to make a living reading the stars; a couple of old ladies boasting to one another that people never believe them when they say they have grandchildren – because they look that good; the social worker helping a woman get a cleaning job at her office; the couple who just got back from their trip to Italy.

There are so many characters and personalities that you will meet along the way.  Regale it.

        Perspective: on how you spend your time (sleeping, thinking, reading, people watching, listening to music on your headphones even though I can hear every word), on life in general, on where you are going. People busy themselves with all sorts of things.  People are in different places in their lives.  People are going to so many different places.

Recognize the people around you.  Realize the life around you.  

         Patience, patience, patience, patience........ There is always a lot of waiting, especially if you don’t take the time to learn the train schedule.  This is possibly the most important and most difficult lesson to learn.  (This is a work in progress.)

Eventually, things will get going.  Be patient.  A frustrated spirit doesn’t speed the process.

Bring a book and enjoy the ride.

“Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.  And when things start to happen, don't worry.  Don't stew. Just go right along. You'll start happening too. OH! THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!” – Dr. Suess

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pies for moms

Two special pies for two special moms in my life.

A coconut pie for mom for Mother's Day.  Mom made this pie often when we were kids and so I replicated it for her on Sunday.  It's a custard based pie - sweet and creamily eggy - infused with coconut and vanilla.

The family seemed to enjoy it.  I snapped this picture of the final pie remains with one hand while batting Mom's fork away with the other.  They seemed to enjoy it.

A lemon blueberry pie for the bff for Friday.  Ok, so her husband may have enjoyed this pie more than she did, but nonetheless. 

Deceivingly light (there is nothing "light" about this pie filling, or the crust for that matter . . mmm, butter and cream . . ), this lemon-scented filling was covered with fresh blueberries - again, giving one the impression that this pie is healthy.  The pecan nut crust, which was the first that I've ever made, was buttery, nutty, and crisp - this might be my favorite kind of crust because of its pat-in-pan ease and tasty flavor. 

Actually, if we're going for nutritional value, there was fruit, dairy, and protein in this dessert; the lemon blueberry pie might be a nutritional jackpot.  No?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Love, Your Baby Girl

My mother’s emails and cards and letters to me are addressed to “My baby girl.”  My mom does a lot of things that, from other people, I find unacceptable.  

My mom is always excited to see me.  She exclaims when I walk in the door as if she is surprised - even if I called her to tell her I was coming, even if it is a family gathering, even if she just saw me three days ago.  I roll my eyes.

 My mom is a hugger.  I am not a hugger.  She hugs me anyway.  And I let her.

My mom lives out loud.  She laughs loudly, and often.  She never hesitates to say what’s on her mind, ever.  She is vibrant and sociable.  (I did not inherit these things from my mother.)

My mom is resilient.  She keeps a cluttered schedule and works hard.  She is headstrong and stubborn, especially when she knows she’s right. (I do inherit these things from my mother.)

I accept these things because my mom is a unique mother.  She is human, very human, and has never tried to hide that fact.  I think this is what allows her to be such a great mom to her now adult children.  She accepts us as humans, and treats us accordingly.

My mom has held me in her arms while I cried as an adult, and not said a word, because she knows that the last thing I would want to do in that moment is to talk or to listen.  My mom has encouraged me to follow my own path in life.  

My mom is genuine, sometimes naive, never inhibited.  My mom is kind, oh so kind.  She is thoughtful and heartfelt and caring.  

Most importantly, my mother is supportive.  In every step I take, even as it takes me away from her for periods of time, my mom is there, supporting me.  I don’t always make it easy on her. My dreams are not the ones we agreed upon when I was a bright child who was interested in science.  My life is not one that is traditional, necessarily.  There are milestones that I have not reached that I know my mom wants me to reach – preferably in her lifetime. (I know this because she basically passes out business cards to any and all single men she meets under the age of 40.)  

But the thing is, even though I know that it must be difficult for her to be as unconditionally supportive as she is all the time, she makes it look so easy.

So, no matter what I do or how far I roam, I will always take comfort in knowing that I am My Mom’s Baby Girl.  And that is the best comfort that I know.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Black and White Pie

A dark chocolate and white chocolate cream pie. 

Ok, so it turned out as more of a Brown and Yellow Pie.  If I were my mother serving this at a party, I would whip up some cream, color half of it black, and dress the whole pie with this tuxedo-ed cream.

However, it’s just me that will be enjoying this pie, one slice at a time, and I am content with Brown and Yellow Pie accented with white freshly whipped cream.

I confess I prefer the Brown bits of the pie.  I’m not a fan of white chocolate, actually, and rarely work with it.  White chocolate may not technically be chocolate anyway.  Alton Brown says it’s not.  When in food-doubt, I always go with Alton Brown.  It’s really only sugared fat . . . wait, why don’t I like it?

If I were to make a white chocolate cream pie again, though, I would increase the amount of white chocolate and decrease the amount of sugar that I used.  White chocolate is less powerfully flavored than dark chocolate (maybe, as an addict, this is why I prefer the dark) and the vanilla overpowers it in this filling. 
Can I add, my graham cracker crust skills are improving?  The trick is, as in most culinary ventures, not to skimp on the butter.  Never skimp on the butter, y’all.

Ok, I need to take a walk now.  (Because I don’t skimp on the butter.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Change of pace

I’ve been done with grad school, what, nine days now?  It feels as if it’s been a lifetime.  Funny how that goes.  I was commiserating with a battle buddy (aka fellow graduate) yesterday about this odd feeling:

I feel lazy getting home around 6ish and watching new television shows as they air . . . on TV.  I feel lazy not having a deadline looming like the dust cloud that follows Pigpen from place to place.  I feel lazy reading from a novel before I go to bed each night.  I feel lazy browsing the web for blogs that I might find amusing or inspiring.  I feel lazy not being uber-busy.  

I should feel relaxed, right?  I should feel excited about the next stage of my life, right? 
(I’m not sure that I am capable of either of those emotions.)

I work better in “go” mode.  But alas, some down time to reboot is probably a good thing from time to time.  Just go with it.  

My current to-do list is time sensitive, but I have plenty of time in which to do it– some tasks are boring ones like dealing with student loans and insurance, others are more fun like going to a Braves game and to NOLA.  The tasks will be completed one by one.  I need to add, “Catch a little bit of a tan” to the list.  You better believe there is a list (or four).  But there is more time to fill.  Just go with it.

Spending time at the library in search of stories, time at the park in search of life, time in the kitchen in search of passion are all wonderful things.  But this limbo is, at the same time, unsettling.  Just go with it.

So, (in efforts to embrace it) I’m off to make dinner - the noodles with peanut sauce, as promised, and sautéed greens – then to make this week’s pie with a glass of wine (or maybe a margarita?) and watching Modern FamilyJust go with it.  Nay, Enjoy it!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pad Thai Inspired Pies

The Summer O' Pies began this week with some pretty yummy pies that we enjoyed last night. This week's pies: Key Lime and Peanut Butter
Several weeks ago I was flying back from D.C. and suddenly noticed the scent of Pad Thai.  This was a short flight with no meal service.  The aroma was the result of someone's lime studded drink and the peanuts that were passed.  The smell of deliciousness.  Perhaps this inspired my choice of pies this week. 

While eating them together (because, yes, you need a slice of both) did not remind me of the savory noodle dish, they did unexpectedly compliment each other well. 

Plus, now I have left over ingredients to make noodles with a lime peanut sauce for dinner.  Score!

Next week, an experiment: Black and White Chocolate Cream Pie.  We'll see how it goes!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Coffee and Oranges

I’ve consumed more oranges and coffee in the past two years than I have in all of my life. Oranges to keep well, coffee to keep awake.

Other things I mastered while getting my Masters:

  • Procrastination – While I had a good handle on this skill prior to grad school, grad school solidified my expertise in this matter.
  • I wear lipstick now - I am going to attribute this to becoming more professional, but I actually think this is because my lips seemed to have faded in color over the past couple of years and I don’t like how they look without lipstick anymore. Maybe this is related to hydration, aging, or high caffeine intake – idk, it’s just a fact.
  • Writing to fit page limits, within a given deadline – **Bonus** This is a for real, important skill in the real world too!
  • Skimming for important s*&! – This is also an important, real world skill.
  • Interpretation – The ability to take what a professor says and translate that into what he/she actually means.
  • How not to over-caffeinate – The key is to space out coffee with tea and water.
  • Small talk – Ok, maybe not mastered, but I’m definitely better at this than I once was, unless I’m very tired.
  • The Art of Just Missing a MARTA Train – This is a true talent. It also increased my reading completion rate.
  • Language acquisition – Nope, not a real other language, unfortunately. Rather, the AYSPS language, which entails an assumption of agreement by ending every statement with: “, right?” It’s annoying at first, but actually it’s quite useful and I like it. Right?
  • Time management – duh.
  • And related, juggling priorities – Being a student, intern/employee, and graduate assistant was like having 3 different jobs, often meant answering to 7 different supervisors, sometimes required working on scores of assignments/projects/proposals/papers/etc. on the same amount of different topics at the same time. Basically, this meant tons of reading and tons of writing. Oh yeah, and I write a blog. And I was constantly looking for jobs. And I attempt to be a friend, daughter, aunt, cat owner, and human all at the same time. I sadly might have failed at some of those last things at times.

Oh yeah, and I now have some management skills and quite the portfolio of analyses of various nonprofit organizations, especially on those in the Atlanta area and/or that focus on international things.

I feel prepared for the real world again. Thanks, Graduate School.