Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lyman's "Thanks for the Keys, Lyman" Key Lime Pie

Nearly three years ago, as Will and I began mulling over the idea of welcoming another little person into our family, we knew the eventual outgrowing of our beloved first home would be one of the inevitable growing pains. The little green house on Quanah Way that Will and I had purchased just three months after our wedding had been the perfect home for our family of four -1200 square feet, three bedrooms, full of character and filled with nearly 11 years of memories.
Our realtor, Lyman (who had assisted us in purchasing our first home over a decade before), was actually one of the first people to know that we were expecting our third child. Before we had even shared the exciting news with our boys, Will and I met with Lyman to review our "dream home" wishlist: at least four bedrooms, a spacious woodshop for Will to run his side business from, an acre of land and that totally intangible "something special." 

Of course, Will and I had different priorities when it came to house hunting. While I longed for a individual space for each of our kiddos to grow into, a large kitchen and/or dining room with space for a big family table (and plenty of counterspace for rolling out pie dough), a spacious indoor laundry area and lots to explore outdoors for the boys, Will was much more focused on making a good financial investment. Well, that and privacy - he has always joked about wanting to be able to walk out in the front yard naked...not that I would ever let him.

So began our search. Because we weren't in any hurry to purchase a home initially, we eagerly saw a bit of everything in our target area and price range. But, I soon realized that I fall in love with homes rather quickly - picturing who would sleep where and dreaming of the perfect spot for the Christmas tree. Looking back, I think there were nearly ten homes I was ready to make an offer on. Thankfully, my husband moves a bit slower and we quickly settled into our respective roles of the dreamer and the realist.

So the beautifully redone (although pricey) 1920's house just down the street from my own childhood home was a no go. As was the completely impractical Victorian farmhouse (without central heating and air) within walking distance from the boys' school. And the remodeled two story with the beautiful kitchen and wrap around porch...on a tiny lot on a very busy street. It had to be out there somewhere...

And then, last December, we found what we thought was the "perfect" home - a ranch house that checked every box and then some: the world's largest woodshop, a huge master, just minutes from the boys' school on nearly two acres - with a creek! After a year and a half of searching, we immediately placed an offer - above asking - and held our breaths. Only to find that the sellers had accepted another offer - for $5,000 less.

The reality of losing the "perfect" home seemed so bleak and discouraging, I wasn't even sure I wanted to continue on in the house hunting adventure. But, Lyman assured us, "there is always another house." And although I couldn't see it at the time, we continued on. Only now, we had a new item on the wish list...a creek.

And, for all my doubt, Lyman was right. There were other houses. There was even another home that we placed an offer in on - with the perfect layout and a sprawling park-like backyard filled with oak trees and multiple gazebos. But, it too was not meant to be. 

And then came the text from a girlfriend I had known since junior high. Had I seen the property for sale just down the street from their house? Will and I did a quick check online and found that the home could indeed be the perfect fit for our family, but not necessarily for our wallets, as it was listed well over budget and still needed a lot of work.

But, several days later, with a fair amount of prodding, I was able to convince Will to drive by the property in question. And as we pulled into the drive, we both knew we needed to call Lyman yet again.
The first time we walked in the front door of the blue house tucked down the long, private drive and nestled into the oaks, I think I knew it was the one. But, the moment we set foot in the backyard and saw the expanse of green, with a trickling creek running the entire length of the yard and deer (yes, deer!) grazing in the meadow, I think we all knew. 
We promptly put in a low offer, crossed our fingers...and almost immediately heard back that they had accepted! We were moving.
At some point in the house hunting journey, I let it slip that I bake the occasional pie. I joked with Lyman that if and when we actually bought a house, I would bake him a pie, you know - as motivation to not pass us off on another realtor.

Well, now that we are nicely settled in our new home sweet home it's time to fulfill my end of the bargain with one homemade "Thanks for the Keys, Lyman" Key Lime Pie.
The tricky thing about making a key lime pie is that I am severely allergic to limes (and actually, most citrus fruits). As in, anaphalactic shock allergic. So, I opted to make this pie a family affair and recruited my little sous chefs to help me bake this go around.

We began with a traditional graham cracker crust, pulsing whole graham crackers in the food processor before stirring in a bit of granulated sugar and melted butter. We then firmly pressed the crumbly mixture into the pie tin using the bottom of a juice glass.

While the crust baked and cooled, we set to work on the key lime filling. The boys were instrumental in squeezing the juice from the bowlful of sliced key limes - no small feat when you consider just how many of the petite fruits were needed to reach nearly a cup of juice!
We then whisked in two cans of sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, and the zest of four key limes (grated so lovingly by my husband, as I needed some fresh air at this point) before carefully pouring the filling into the cooled pie shell. After another ten minutes in the oven, it was into the fridge to set overnight.

The next morning, my little pie bakers and I set to beautifying our very first key lime pie with homemade whipped cream piped into starbursts and lime segment garnishes. 
After nearly two years of showing us home after home on what we joked were our standing weekly appointments, while navigating us through the ins and outs of three offers, the emotional sale of our first home, and the purchase of "our forever home," I think we can all agree that Lyman has earned his pie fair and square. While he did accompany us to many houses that probably felt like a complete waste of his time - including a care home I am nearly certain was haunted, a Victorian with a large scale marijuana production in the basement, and even a couple of houses that prompted us to say, "Sorry, but we probably don't even need to go inside" - Lyman never once made us feel as though we were anything but his first priority.

Lyman cared for each member of our family and graciously tolerated an awful lot of crazy, loud little boy energy. He was always ready with reassurance in the disappointments and celebration in the triumphs. He is not only our realtor, but our friend, and that is certainly deserving of pie. Thanks for the keys, Lyman! We hope your pie was worth the wait.

"You know what they say: 'Why sit at a table that doesn't have key lime pie on it if you don't have to?'" - Sloane Crosley
Sloane Crosley
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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mrs. Kingsley's "An Apple for My Teacher" Apple Pie

In his short educational career, Wilson has been blessed with a string of wonderful, caring teachers. But his current second grade teacher, Mrs. Kingsley, is set apart.

To begin with, our family's relationship with Mrs. Kingsley goes back approximately thirty years to when my husband was a shy, toe-headed student in her third grade class at a nearby elementary school. How lucky we have been this year to share and compare stories of Mrs. Kingsley's class between father and son!
Secondly, she just "gets" Wilson. My firstborn is very much his own person - unwaveringly strong in his convictions, often despite the reactions of his peers. Mrs. Kingsley quickly recognized, encouraged and directed this strong will, choosing to find strengths in quirks that could have been viewed as challenges by less invested teachers.

Throughout this past school year, our dinner conversation has regularly consisted of the latest and greatest of the happenings in Room 6. Wilson loves that Mrs. Kingsley calls her cats her "children," that she exclaims "Sign her up!" when she makes a basket in the trash can from across the room and that she prods "Let the Mama through" when creating a path through her students. He enjoys her company so much that he painstakingly saved 700 Beaver Bucks (classroom incentives) to have a special pizza lunch with her at the end of the school year - and anyone who has had a second grader knows just how difficult delayed gratification can be. But I think what Wilson loves most about Mrs. Kingsley is that she provides a safe, warm and nurturing atmosphere for him to learn, grow and yes - even make mistakes. This is also what Will and I have grown to love about her.

So I wasn't the least bit surprised when Wilson mentioned he wanted to make a pie for Mrs. Kingsley as his end of the year gift to her. Because Will and I are actively attempting to instill a culture of giving and appreciation in our boys, combined with his growing interest in cooking and baking in particular this year, I decided to let Wilson take the reigns on this one. He worked busily on his gift - editing and revising his blog over the course of nearly a week, researching pie recipes and crust techniques and baking away (with me taking a back seat as his sous chef).

Ultimately, Wilson settled on an apple pie as a nod to the tradition of bringing an apple for your teacher. So, without further adieu, I present Mrs. Kingsley's "An Apple for My Teacher" Apple Pie - as told by Wilson.

"Dear Mrs. Kingsley,

I know that you already know about this blog that I am writing. I hope you like it.

I think that you are an amazing teacher! You teach me so much like math, reading, science and money. It is so cool that you taught my dad and me! 

I love that you are so hilarious. My favorite memory will always be the time we went to the Jelly Belly Factory. 

Since you are such a good teacher, my mom and I decided to make you a pie. Since teachers love apples, we decided to make you an apple pie!

First, Mommy and I made the crust. I measured the flour, salt, butter and vegetable shortening. With my hands, I mixed the ingredients with ice water into a dough. My mom helped me roll out the dough into a pie tin.

Next, I did the apple filing. I measured the sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon while my mom cut the apples for me. I mixed the ingredients with the apples and we put it in the pie tin with the dough. I cut up little pieces of butter and put them on top of the apples. 
Then we rolled out the dough for the top of the pie. I used cookie cutters to make apples out of dough. Then I carefully set them all on top of the pie to make it beautiful. 
At last, I cracked an egg from the chicken coop (our chickens are so helpful) and I brushed it on the pie. Then I sprinkled sugar on top of the pie. I put it in the oven to bake. 
When we took it out of the oven it looked beautiful and delicious!
You are an amazing person! I will be so sad to leave your class. YOU ARE AWESOME! Those are the three words that best describe you!

Mrs. Kingsley, you were such an amazing teacher and I hope you will love this pie!
         your student,

“You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can't count the apples in a seed. When you teach, you never know how many lives you will are teaching for eternity.”
- Karen Jensen