Monday, March 25, 2013

Guest Post - Erin and Kelli's Life is "S'more" Fun When We're Together Pies

At the Pi(e) Day Party earlier this month, I sent each of the past years' pie recipients home with an empty pie box and small tag reading, "It's true what they say - it is infinitely better to give than to receive. That's why I'm passing the rolling pin to you. Here is an empty box, just waiting to be filled with your homemade creation and gifted to someone you love. And if you're up for documenting your baking endeavors, I'd love to share your story on the blog! So pie it forward. It's your turn to "Bake Somebody (else) Happy." 

In retrospect, I can see how this invitation to bake may have been perceived as homework rather than a party favor. But leave it to my good friend Kristin to be the first to take me up on my offer to pie it forward. I am so excited to be able to share her heart in my first official guest post! Enjoy!

I want to preface this blog entry with the fact that there is no way my words will ever be adequate to express how much the recipients of the pies mean to me.

Let's face is not very often that parents of children get along with each other as well as their kids do. My husband and I feel so fortunate to know Erin and Will and watch our children grow up together to be the best of friends. As our friendship grows, our children's friendship has blossomed as well. 
I have to admit - during my entire second pregnancy, I had an idea that a little boy would be in our future and from my experience with most little boys, it brought me much anxiety. Fear of the unknown and the "typical" busy and rambunctious toddler boy left me a little concerned and thinking I may not be cut out for this challenge. Every time I started to feel uneasy, I thought back to what a wonderful little boy Wilson was/is (and now Henry also). His sweet nature always put my mind at ease - plus I loved that he had a bit of a cautious side that I secretly hoped our little boy would share. As Erin mentioned in a previous blog, Wilson is "the apple of her eye," so it's not surprising I fell in love with this little boy as I feel the same about his mom. Paige also loves Wilson to a fault and there have been many talks about Wilson and Paige still sharing experiences when they are all "grown up" well into adulthood. Erin eased me into my first experience with boys and I am enjoying the truly magical experience that is "boy" (especially the trains). (P.S. I will never forget sobbing the ugly cry through the "Love you Forever" book she gave me after meeting Grant for the first time.)

Erin and I met in junior high. During a time of extreme awkwardness and insecurity - in which nobody wanted to be different in any way - Erin was always herself, which was something I admired then and something I strive for now. She never attempted to be fake just to "fit in," which to this day continues to stand true. Erin is the most genuine, sensitive and kind person I know. She has always understood and listened to me, even when her opinion may differ. I feel so fortunate to have her as a friend. Some people say that relationships succeed not because of what a person says or does for you but by the way a person makes you feel. I have always felt cherished in our friendship and only hope I do the same for Erin.
As Erin mentioned in her blog, we were old friends reunited with common interests and experiences. We have so many similar experiences prior to us reuniting and then we have been so fortunate to share in so many first motherhood experiences together. I can remember the nervousness I felt the first time we got our husbands together for our first trip to the snow, hoping our husbands would get along as well as Erin and I did. I remember thinking that Will would probably think we were crazy driving forty minutes just in order for our three and four month olds to experience snow, but then Will got out of the car with a smile and a snow saucer.
I have so many vivid memories similar to this of all the firsts we shared together...we visited almost every museum in Sacramento, zoos, fairs (I will never forget the wonder on our kids faces when visiting the animals at the State Fair), fishing, train rides (so many train rides), birthday parties (her creativity cannot be matched), parks (including Livermore where our kids experienced water for the first time outside of the bath) and even established many yearly traditions such as Bishops' Pumpkin Patch (I love our photos of the kids with the pumpkins), Christmas caroling, Christmas light viewing, Christmas Eve with Santa (one of our favorite traditions), Apple Hill and berry picking. I will treasure the memories of all these firsts and the many more memories our families will make together.
Although we have busier schedules that do not allow us to spend as much time together as I am sure both of us would is always "s'more" fun when we do get together.

Kelli and my friendship developed under unusual circumstances. Kelli and I did not really know each other well until my junior year (her senior year) at Del Campo High School. I had recently asked a mutual crush to TWIRP (a girls ask boys dance) in which - to put it lightly - Kelli was not really excited about me asking him before she got the chance. We found ourselves sitting at a basketball game next to each other and amongst the awkward silence Kelli asked about what creative way I had asked Mike to the dance. After that day, we knew we had met our friend "match." 

She and I conversed about creative projects we planned to do and what we had done in the past. This was the case of foe turned friend. To this day, there is not a birthday party or shower that Kelli does not help me do the cupcakes. Not only has Kelli been my person to bounce creative ideas off of, she has been there for me during every pivotal part of life. She knows as much about me as my family. In fact, when I went away to college, my boyfriend hacked into her email account to find out what I was up to while living in the dorms - he knew I told Kelli everything.
There have been so many laughs during our 17 year friendship. In particular, I remember falling down a flight of stairs just to provide some comic relief before a first date for her. I used to have to use the restroom before we attended our line dancing classes, or I would pee my pants. And then there were oh so many dance parties (I can still pull out a mean shopping cart), overnight trips, camping trips, casinos ("put it all on black") and our love for San Francisco (Asia SF and Kareoko stand out in my mind).
Kelli was there to meet me at the airport when I told her that I met the "guy of my dreams" in Costa Rica - we "painted the town" for my Bachelorette party, she stood by me as one of my Maids of Honor at our wedding and she has been a huge part of both of my children’s lives (attending baptisms, coming to sports events, buying Girl Scout cookies and taking an active interest in everything they are). She even brought me a bagel the morning I was in labor with Grant and offered to drive me to the hospital, assuring me that he would not come out if I used the restroom (haha). My children love her like family because really that is what she is. I laugh more with her (sometimes at her) than anyone I know.
Along with all the wonderful times we have had together, our friendship has endured more obstacles in life than one should - including a cancer diagnosis/treatment, driving in San Francisco, miscarriages, really bad New Years Eve's (I think that Tahoe one topped the list - remember the burnt pillow?) and bad breakups - but we always come out stronger because of it. Kelli is my perfect friendship match and I cannot imagine my life without her. Life is just "s'more" fun when we are together. 
After leaving Erin's wonderful "Pie Party," my mind was running wild with ideas about the assignment attached to the empty pie box she gave to each of her guests. The card on the box read, "It's true what they say - it is infinitely better to give than to receive. That's why I'm passing the rolling pin to you. Here is an empty box, just waiting to be filled with your homemade creation and gifted to someone you love. And if you're up for documenting your baking endeavors, I'd love to share your story on the blog! So pie it forward. It's your turn to "Bake Somebody (else) Happy."
I knew I wanted to reciprocate and attempt to "Bake Erin Happy" (in addition, I needed a little redemption for the Blueberry Sour Cream Pie debacle). I knew there was no way anything I could bake could match Erin's pies, but hey I had nowhere to go but up from my last pie blunder and I wanted to bake a pie to honor Erin. The problem is...the assignment was for me to "pie it forward" not "pie it back," so I came up with this: I am going to bake two of the same type of pie and tweak the recipe a little (as Erin would say) to make each one a little unique and as special as the recipient. So I made Erin and Kelli's Life is "S'more" Fun When We're Together Pies. 
Since attending Erin's "live" debut, I learned a few things from her that I wanted to try out. I found a few recipes for similar pies and "tweaked" them. (Don't worry Erin - I steered clear of too much salt.) I also avoided traditional crust, as I knew if I was going to botch something it would be that for sure.
I started with a traditional graham cracker crust with a little twist. I accidentally bought a box of cinnamon graham crackers and a box of original graham crackers, so I used a cup of each, crushed and mixed with one stick of melted butter. I placed it in a greased pie dish and pressed it with the bottom of a cup and baked for 12 minutes at 325 degrees.
Then I worked on the pie filling. I took a ten ounce semi-sweet chocolate bar and used a grater to chop. (This was certainly a labor of love project - I don't know how Erin does this as often as she does.)
Then I whisked a cup of heavy whipping cream and 3/4 cup of milk in a saucepan over medium heat while adding the chopped chocolate slowly and stirring. I then added one teaspoon of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and two eggs (whisked) in a saucepan and continued to stir.

Then I poured the pie filling over the graham cracker crust and baked at 325 degrees for 15 minutes (until the pie was solid, but still jiggled a little).
Kelli and I share the same love for Easter (I think it is because of our Spring birthdays). Kelli is obsessed with "Peeps" (for every season she gets packages and waits for them to harden for future enjoyment). I actually pondered naming the pie "Peep-A-Ru," as Kelliru is her nickname. So for Kelli, I added a layer of golden Peeps (or two packages). 
Erin made the most meticulously designed pecan pie for her mother's Not Your Mama's Pecan Pie that I have admired since seeing the pictures - therefore, I decided to attempt a design top with marshmallows for Erin. 

"Nothing is as good for the soul as a marshmallow roast." - Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Good (Pie) Day Sacramento

Months ago, I began daydreaming about hosting a Pi(e) Day Party on March 14th (or 3.14, for those of you mathematically inclined). Just a small, low-key get together in my backyard, serving a variety of homemade pie to friends and family while simultaneously celebrating the culmination of my first year of baking and blogging. It would be delightfully quaint, I imagined.

How quickly that vision changed - beginning with a simple, seemingly innocuous text from my husband, reading "Check your email." I knew better. Last time I got that text, Will's mother had been rushed to the hospital for emergency abdominal surgery. So I held my breath as I clicked to open my inbox.

But I could not have possibly prepared myself for what appeared on the screen - a series of emails sent between my husband and the producer of our local TV morning news program, Good Day Sacramento. The initial email went a liitle something like this...

"My wife Erin has spent the last year of her life learning how to bake pies and giving them to the ones who have impacted her life...Her endeavor has been purely altruistic..Forgive me as I am not a publicist, just a humble teacher with a wife I love dearly and think others could benefit from her pay it forward attitude."

And even more shocking - within a half hour, he had received this enthusiastic response from the show's Senior Coordinating Producer:
"I love this!!!  Can we do a live shot on THURSDAY 3/14 from her home? I would love to have Erin walk us through her latest creation LIVE during a 3 minute segment!...Maybe we do one segment in our 6am hour, show off a few pies she has done with their inspirations. Then come back in the 7am hour and MAKE a new pie!!...Love this!!"
Goodness me, this was a lot to wrap my head around! All those exclamation points! "Live shot?" From my home? "LIVE 3 minute segment?" "MAKE a new pie?" What had my dear husband gotten me into? My head was spinning!

Despite my initial gut reaction to respond with something along the lines of "Thanks, but no thanks," I eventually agreed and began baking, rehearsing, worrying and praying. My greatest fear was not that I would drop the pie as I put it into the oven or that I would forget my name on live television (although those fears certainly were on the growing list of things to loose sleep over). I was primarily concerned
that someone would watch and see the segment as pretentious and self-important. More than anything, I hoped viewers would see my heart in baking for those I love and feel inspired to "pie it forward" in their own lives.

Although the actual morning is a bit of a blur, I survived (without dropping the pie) and even received surprisingly laughable feedback that I appeared natural, relaxed, calm and/or poised on air. Ha! My beautiful friends who were by my side before the sun even rose that morning - Kristin, Kathy, Kaci, and Megan - can vouch that I was anything but. These amazing women rallied around me, lovingly reassuring me that I didn't make (too many) unflattering faces and cheerleading me on through one of the scariest days on record.
Suddenly, (well, following a short nap) the Pi(e) Day Party that had taken a bit of a back seat to my somewhat reluctant television debut was upon me. What was initially planned as a casual dessert-centered celebration was morphing into a bit of an after party. But, what better way to unwind than with your dearest and closest friends and seven homemade pies? (I may have over baked just a tad).
I consider myself the luckiest girl in the world to have such amazing friends and family (not to mention, the most kind-hearted, supportive husband a girl could ever ask for). I would not have been able to bake, eat and blog my way through the past year without the love, encouragement and inspiration of the "Somebody"s I have had the opportunity to bake happy. I am truly blessed.