Thursday, November 22, 2012

Why I Am Thankful for Pie

This time of year - overflowing with birthdays, holidays and visits from loved ones far away - I find myself reflecting a bit more than usual on the abundant blessings in my life. And this year, with my own birthday falling on Thanksgiving Day and another year full of things to be grateful for behind me, this seems to be doubly so.

Among other things, I am thankful for pie. Not just the actual dessert itself, mind you, but what pie has brought into my life over this past year. Pie has taught me that I can do things I never thought possible. Pie has solidified, improved and restored relationships in my life. And p
ie has been the perfect vehicle to show love to those around me.

I am thankful for my many pastry muses: Miss Megan, my Mom, Tom and Adrienne, Briana and Daniel, my husband Will, Brad, Kaci, Kathy, Anita, Miss Jamie, Kristin, Victoria, Timmy Dad, Joanna, Angela, Don, Wilson and all of the friends and family who are still patiently awaiting their pies. (I foresee a lot of baking in my future.)

So, this year as our little family of four sits down to a maybe slightly less traditional Thanksgiving dessert of buttermilk pie, my wish
 is that you, too, are celebrating with the ones you are most thankful for. And if you happen to spend a bit of your holiday sharing a piece of pie, all the sweeter.

"… truth be told, turkey is an obstacle on the road leading to pie." - The Philadelphia Inquirer

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wilson's "Apple of My Eye" Apple Pie

The day I met Wilson was simultaneously the most magical and most terrifying day I have ever experienced. I will never forget my first glimpse of his beautiful grey, limp body held up for me to see as the hospital room around me turned to chaos. Doctors and nurses rushed in and barked orders at each other and I clung desperately to every second - waiting to hear that glorious first cry that indicates new life. I waited for someone - anyone - to tell me he was going to be okay. But all I got was "We are doing everything we can." In that incredible moment, everything changed. I became a Mommy and, in doing so, understood what it meant to have "your heart walking around outside your body."
Wilson's entrance into this world was dramatic and, as is probably fitting, his first five years here have followed suit. In his brief little life, Wilson has taught me so much - patience, gentleness, humility, commitment and unconditional love to name just a few. I thank God every day for entrusting me with his little soul and I feel so honored to be his Mommy.
Wilson is my biggest cheerleader. One of my greatest recent joys has been overhearing him tell friends his Mommy is a "pie baker." He is always eager to know who the next pie is going home with, pushing his kitchen chair over to the counter to watch me prepare the dough and repeatedly offering to be my taste tester. He politely "oohs" and "aahs" enthusiastically over each finished product, reassuring me that "this one" is the most beautiful pie yet.

For a couple of months now, Wilson has held firm that he does not want a cake for his birthday this year, but rather a pie. More specifically, an apple pie. Well, how could I possibly turn down an opportunity like that? Seeing as how we will have a traditional birthday cake at his party the following weekend, it seemed only fitting that our family share a homemade apple pie to celebrate the day of his actual birth - an apple pie for the apple of my eye.

And when Wilson asked if there might also be a "story on the computer" about him and his pie, my heart melted. So here goes, little man - this one is just for you.

Dear Wilson, 

The day you were born was the luckiest day of my life. Not only did I become a mommy (which is something I had prayed for for a long time), but I became Mommy to the sweetest little boy I could ever hope to meet - you! I remember stroking your toes and watching your little chest rise and fall with each new breath, thinking that you and I were on the start of a beautiful adventure together.

I loved holding you as a baby and smelling your sweet newborn smell as you slept in my arms (instead of the crib where Daddy said I should put you for naps). I loved watching you grow and learn to roll over, sit up, crawl and then walk. I loved your sweet little voice and how beautiful it sounded when you first learned to call me "Mama." Our days spent at home together have been the most precious of my life. And though I sometimes miss those early quiet days of ours, I am so excited to see what five-year old-Wilson has in store for us. 
Even though I am your Mommy and I am supposed to teach you, you have taught me so much. You have taught me that it is more important to really enjoy the moment than it is to hurry through something just to get it done. You have taught me patience and gentleness and sweetness. You have taught me that there is always time for the really good things in life: snuggling, eating and spending time together. And you have taught me that nothing is better than a train ride with you by my side. 
I am so proud of the big boy you are becoming. You have learned to do so much as a four-year-old: go to preschool, write your name, cut with scissors, dress yourself, drink from an open cup, buckle your own carseat and so much more. I love watching your focus as you create masterpieces with paper and markers. I love seeing the excitement in your eyes at the mere mention of a train. I love seeing the awe on your face as you look out at the ocean. I love the adorable moves you bust out during our family dance parties and I love hearing you sing yourself to sleep every night over your monitor. I love when you reach for my hand when we are walking together. And I feel so blessed every time you come home with a flower you have picked just for me.
I am so excited to see what wonderful things five-year-old Wilson will learn to do. I know kindergarten will hold so much more for you next year - friendships and experiences that you will remember always.

You are the most wonderful big brother Henry could ever ask for and the most perfect firstborn son Daddy and I could ever have dreamed of. I am so lucky to have you as my son. In all the homes in all the world, there is no little boy better for our family. God chose you for us and I would choose you one hundred times over. I would do every moment of you all over again. I am blessed to be your Mommy.

Happy fifth birthday, Wilson!
I love you so much, 
Seeing as how the seasons had changed and Apple Hill was ripening in all of it's apple glory just up the freeway, we loaded up the kiddos and drove to pick ourselves some apples. Armed with a couple of apple reacher-grabber thingies (I think that is the technical term), we headed out to the Granny Smith orchard to fill up a pair of the sweetest little apple picking bags.
Wilson was a natural, instructing us to pick only the best, biggest apples for his pie. He took quickly to grasping the stems of the apples higher up in the trees and pulling them down with the claw. Suffice it to say, he was pretty proud of himself.
Once our bags were filled with the fixings for a pie (and a couple of extra apples for some hungry tummies), we headed home.
Then for the exciting part - deciding on exactly what kind of apple pie to make. My head was swimming with visions of cheddar crusts, honey apple pies, maple custard apple pies...maybe even a chocolate apple pie. But, as I described the seemingly endless possibilities to Wilson, he turned to me and said, "I don't want a fancy pie, Mommy. I just want an apple pie like you made for Miss Megan." And with that single statement, the decision was made - Wilson's "Apple of My Eye" Apple Pie it was.

We aproned up and set to work squeezing the chilled butter and shortening into the salted flour. As I gradually trickled in the ice water to bring the mixture together, it became increasingly clear that getting your hands into a bowlful of pie dough can be just as therapeutic for a four-year-old (excuse me, five-year-old) as it is for us adults. I foresee this pie partnership of ours becoming a more regular occurrence in our house.
Then it was time to prepare the apples. So I rummaged around in the back of our cabinet and dug out the peeler/corer. The boys find this piece of equipment highly entertaining, and with a little supervision, are able to be fairly independent.
Plus, there is always the added bonus of "apple spaghetti" from the leftover peel.
After putting my little helper to bed for the night, I returned to the kitchen, rolled out the dough and began assembling the pie that I have made so many times (see here, here and here) and yet continues to get the best of me. Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to master, but I was determined to conquer apple pie - if not for me, for Wilson.
I combined granulated sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl, generously dusting layers of apples before dolloping the whole thing with pads of butter.
Finally, I gently rested the second blanket of dough atop the mound of apples, carefully tucking the edges under and pinching the seams together to seal in the juices. From the scraps of dough littering my cuttingboard, I cut out a small heart to adorn the top of the pie.
I brushed the pie with a beaten egg for a glossy sheen, using a little extra to "glue" the heart to the top, and cut a few slits in the dough to let the steam escape.
Just over an hour later - with fingers crossed and my breath held - I opened the oven door to find a perfectly golden brown bubbling apple pie. Success!
I can hardly believe it has been five years since I first met my little guy and became a Mommy. These past five years together have been the best of my life. It has been such a gift to navigate the world with Wilson by my side. He truly is the apple of my eye.

"Baby don't cry, gonna make a pie, gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle.
Baby don't be blue, gonna make for you, gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle.

Gonna make a pie from heaven above, gonna be filled with strawberry love.

Baby don't you cry, gonna make a pie, and hold you forever in the middle of my heart." -Keri Russell in "Waitress"