Coming Up for Air

I’m over forty, but I’m taking swimming lessons. I mean, I know how to swim; my Granny taught me when I was a little one and I took the obligatory swim club lessons each summer till I was eight or so. But I never felt like a confident swimmer. I never quite got the mix of arms, legs, breathing, etc. down the way I wanted to. So in the doldrums of this past, never-ending winter, I signed up for private swim lessons at my gym.

It took awhile to get used to. A little terrifying, initially. My coach has been great. She’s always right there, encouraging me, gently correcting, offering tips and guidance, and pushing me to do just a little bit more. Finally, one evening in the pool, I relaxed. I found my pace. Everything fell into rhythm. I enjoyed the quiet, the utter unplugged space that the pool offers. No underwater iPhone or wifi here! It’s as inaccessible as I am at any time during the week. It’s utterly MY time, working for my health, for my body, for my peace of mind. It’s more rewarding than I’d imagined and I’m hopeful that I’ve now learned a new way to enjoy getting and staying fit with something I’ll be able to do for the rest of my life.

 

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Triple Cherry Pie and a Fresh Start

I made a couple of triple cherry pies over the weekend. The triple being fresh frozen sweet cherries, canned tart cherries, and dried cherries. (Yes, Liz, you can make this pie using canned cherries — I wanted to be sure.)

One I gave to my friend (who took the gorgeous photo above), and another I brought to another friend along with dinner (The Food Geek’s Tarragon Mac and Cheese — always a favorite.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about what pie represents for me. It’s obviously not just pie, but a stress reliever, a way I like to reward, honor, thank, or delight people. I like being good at something I can make with my hands, that is tangible (everything I do professionally, is not.)

I started baking pies when my son was heading to college. It was a half-empty nest occupation, meant to fill a hole that swelled when he left.

It became more than that; an outlet into something I could control and that gave me satisfaction, the joy that comes from pleasing others, and, of course, really great pie. It became important to me, and still is, although I bake far less frequently than I did at one time. I had to get through the lessons, the experiments, and the failures and that took a lot of pie baking, before now, when I’m reasonably confident and can turn out a fine pie when I put my mind to it.

I made, what I will forever refer to as the most perfect apple pie ever made, and rushing from oven to car to take it to a friend’s birthday dinner, I dropped it. Spectacularly. With witnesses, one, a neighbor’s young daughter, who immediately came over and wrapped her little arms around me and I started to cry.

It put me off baking pie for a couple of weeks. But I mourned it, as we do when what we’ve worked on, invested in, created with love and then inadvertently destroyed. And then I dried my tears, realized it wasn’t the end of the world — far from it — and enjoyed a lovely birthday dinner with some great friends.

I returned to pie baking with two triumphant cherry pies.

What’s the lesson here? Know of what you’re capable. Don’t stop doing what you love, just because you have the occasional misstep or complete failure. Pick yourself up, accept the hug, and get back to the business of being you. I’m working on that, a couple pies at a time.

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Cranberry Apple Pie

Cranberry Apple Pie by marijean_jaggers
Cranberry Apple Pie, a photo by marijean_jaggers on Flickr.

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Not My Grandmother’s Pineapple Pie

My friend Allison challenged me to make a pie I’d never made before, nor had I tasted or even heard of it: the pineapple pie.

A search in my collection of cookbooks did not contribute much in the way of recipes for the challenge pie, so I consulted the internet, then put my own spin on it.

I can never seem to make one pie at a time, so I doubled up. The following recipe is for TWO pies.

2 20 oz. cans of crushed pineapple

Add two cups of sugar

Add four tablespoons of corn starch and two tablespoons of flour, to thicken the filling

Pour in half a cup of dark rum! (I didn’t see rum in any recipe I found, but I figure rum makes anything better.)

Pour the filling into two pie shells (made from scratch or store bought — just don’t tell me about it if you bought it). You can decorate the top with lattice if you wish; I did a few pastry hearts.

Bake for 30 minutes at 425. Let cool completely before serving.

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Happy 16th Birthday to the Girl

Sixteen years ago (and a few hours), I looked like this. That’s my then-six-year-old son cheesing it up in the foreground, for perspective. When pregnant women tell me they think they’re “huge” I think of this image and chuckle.

Women like to share labor and delivery horror stories; I don’t have that. I had that baby in half an hour of pushing. So fast, in fact that the nurses thought my little round-headed baby was from a C-section.

Nope.

Thus my second child came into the world, sixteen years ago.

She’s smart, she’s witty and she’s beautiful.

She’s been tall since birth and now stands at my height exactly (5’10.5″).

She loves volleyball and drama. She likes to sing and to read. She is a devoted fan of all things Dr. Who-related. She’s the girl and I love her.

Happy sixteenth birthday to my sweet, darling girl. The world’s a better place because you’re in it.

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