Facehuggers & pie

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My lattice top apple pie
If you have learned anything from me thus far, you’ll know that when it officially turns “fall” for the rest of the US, it’s really just a continuation of summer for us Texans.  The weather has been more cooperative though; the high is now only in the 90s instead of triple digits.  I capped off the first official weekend of fall with a “strong to quite strong” sunburn from a deliciously long trail ride.  When the leaves start to turn, you can bet Ryon and I will be hitting the trail around the lake more often and enjoying not sweating to death from walking around.

This weekend, I also watched (almost) the entire Alien movie series, starting with Prometheus, the prequel with Michael Fassbender that came out in 2012, and working backward from there, since JR was aghast that the only Alien movie that I had ever seen was Alien vs. Predator.  What ended up amazing me about the series was the quality, particularly of the first two, for a sci-fi flick started in 1979.  Except for the terrible hair and a few minor technological gaps, I didn’t find many elements missing vs. a movie made now, particularly with the first two directed by Ridley Scott and James Cameron.  Also, for those of you familiar with the Bechdel test, Alien is the movie example used in her famous rule.

As a continuation to the Great Pie Experiment, during the past two weeks, I’ve baked a traditional lattice top apple pie and a Boston cream pie, which I suppose doesn’t really count as a pie but it has “pie” in the name so what the hell.  It should also come as no surprise that the weekend apparel is now confined to stretchy pants only.  Can’t wait until it cools down and that’s extended to sweatpants.

Pro: The lattice top for the apple pie was not as hard to make as I thought it was going to be.  Helpful hint for beginners: cut the lattice strips thicker in width than you think you want them to be.  They’ll stretch while you’re laying them over the top of the pie, even if you don’t mean for them to.  Even though I have quite a bit of work to do on crusts still (keep forgetting to fold the extra hangover under instead of over), the results turn out relatively nicely.  And no one has complained yet about aesthetics, as they’re too busy shoving pie into their mouths.

Pro: The Boston cream pie has been the easiest “pie” to make, out of all the pies baked thus far.  The recipe doesn’t involve slapping cake layers on top of each other or frosting anything.  Actually it sort of feels like cheating, using a yellow cake box mix and instant pudding but you know what?  It tastes good, and I would dare to say even better because it requires so very little effort.  I know, you’d think that would be the other way around but it really isn’t at all.  Plus it’s nice to throw a little variety in there, every once in awhile.  One can eventually get tired of pie crust or at least need a palate cleanser.

Con: I don’t have a pastry brush (or any other type of brush) and so ghetto-fied the egg wash on the apple pie with my fingers.  The crust still baked up golden brown, if not a little streaky.  Perhaps I should get unlazy and just buy a pastry brush.  The crust also needs to be kept very cold while you’re putting together the lattice or else it’ll tear and you’ll be forced to ball it all up and start again.  See, I need more practice.

Conclusion: If you want a quick and easy dessert (because who doesn’t?), make the Boston cream pie cheat version.  There’s minimum baking and assembly required.  The traditional apple pie is worth making if you want exactly that - a traditional looking apple pie that smells like heavenly fall when it’s baking in your oven.


Monday, September 21, 2015

There are the splatters of bacon grease that freckle the stove top.

And the tinkling sound that accompanies the breaking of glass, like when I accidentally knock over the French press that we’ve owned for exactly one week.

There are the stray clumps of flour and butter smudged on the counter tops.

And drips of ice cream on the floor.

Soiled and crumpled paper towels litter the place.

The blaring of fire alarms still rings in my ears from a smoking oven, as the remnants of spaghetti squash cook off its bottom.

This is the mess that is my kitchen, but if you squint hard enough, you’ll see evidence of hard work, effort, and love.  It’s the midnight snacks, the glasses of water in the middle of the night, the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners prepared together, for one another and with one another.

This kitchen isn’t showroom ready or even Instagrammable.  There have been dirty tennies placed on the counters where I’ve rolled out pie crusts.  Sometimes it smells like onions for weeks, and don’t look now but there’s dirty silverware marinating in the sink.

Relationships show the same wear and tear.  They have the rents, stains, and wrinkles - with my initials attached.  All those things that I wish were nonexistent or, at the very worst, could have remained under wraps.  Those scars and symbols of ugliness which have been a representation of how I’ve felt or things I’ve said, sometimes in the heat of the moment and sometimes with cold calculation.  There’s rubble from minor explosions that I’ve set off on a weekly basis and also a desperate path that’s been cleared through it, swept daily by both of us.  The unwavering policy through it all is one of honesty and communication, and it is with those two things that everything is exposed.  It’s only then in a relationship that a person is truly naked.

In those moments, it requires faith and trust to keep from hiding in the shadows.  It is humbling to be imperfect before those who I would like to be The Most Perfect for.  Standing bare in front of those on whom I rely on for their understanding and patience, and I cross my fingers that theirs is much longer lasting and more resilient than mine.  I’ve constantly told myself that imperfection is a result of not trying hard enough when it’s just a side effect of the human condition.

It takes a special eye to peer through the disorder and see the true beauty of a relationship, of what’s been built with the remnants of skirmishes and battles, through partnership and compromise.  Perfection - is that really what you would want in either your kitchen or relationship?  Where then is the evidence of creation, of improvement, of celebrations and mourning?  To get dirty and live through a few minor explosions and emerge whole and improved is a proud badge of honor for both a kitchen and a relationship, is it not?

Eight Months Later (no, it's not what it sounds like)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Holy smokes, it’s been a full eight months since I’ve done a house post on my blog!  Which isn’t to say that I haven’t been scoping out the real estate market on the daily anyway.  I have always loved looking at houses and can remember going through the real estate classifieds in the newspaper with a highlighter when I hadn’t even hit double digits yet.  And I will probably always love looking at houses, even though it’s the most impractical thing I could do financially (okay maybe not the most impractical, that would be buying another horse) right now.  Speaking rather practically, in terms of a long-term investment the market in Dallas is still on fire and prices are inflated beyond the reasonable imagination.  Then, for me personally, there’s the whole irrational fear in establishing a place of permanence and let’s be honest, the only reason I would need more room would be to have more space to keep all my books.

Still, when you see a unique gem like the first house I’ve shared since January, you can see why I let my imagination run away with me a smidge.  This little mid-century ranch was built in the 1930's and is under 1,500 square feet.  Luckily the owners since haven’t completely gutted and modernized it.  It’d be lovely to scoop it up and preserve all the quirky innards (and why yes, that is a pool in the backyard).

The Great Pie Experiment

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pie Hard - Sorry I couldn't help it

Welp, it’s that time of year again.  If you get anxiety just from hearing the word “holiday” before October, I’d recommend you turn back from reading this blog post.

:: Courtesy Pie Break::

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I’ve jump started the Great Pie Experiment before it’s even officially autumn (in less than two weeks guys, that’s tragic).  The rules of the experiment are simple - make/bake at least one pie each weekend until Thanksgiving.  The winners during this time period will make it onto the Thanksgiving menu where the final judging occurs.

If you’re new to my blog, you’ll think starting this early and practicing pie recipes is insanity (and you will even if you aren’t new here).  However, in the past (here, here, and here) I’ve had problems with still-raw pie crusts, ugly as sin pies, sweeter than sin pies, etc.  Thanksgiving pies at our house are heavily critiqued, with gravity typically reserved for County Fair Pie Competitions.

Over the last two weekends, I’ve baked a No-Bake French Silk Pie from A Cup of Jo and Lemon-Lime Icebox Pie from Homesick Texan.  “Bake” is a term used rather loosely here because, as the name indicates, the no-bake French silk pie saw zero oven time while the lemon-lime pie only needed the crust to bake.  Per Lauren’s request, here are a few of my pie observations:

Pro: During the hot summer months, the no-bake pies take little to no oven time and thusly don’t heat up the furnace that your home is already bound to be (maybe that’s just us in Texas).  During Thanksgiving, they wouldn’t take up precious space in your already chaotic oven coordination schedule and could be made a day in advance.  They do require some time in the refrigerator but then they come out nice and chilly, perfect for a hot day.

Pro: No need for fancy equipment.  No stand mixers, no food processors, no pastry cutters.  For both recipes, I crushed up the crust ingredients (both prepackaged cookies and pretzels) using a ziploc bag and an unopened wine bottle.  So I didn’t get perfect uniform bits of pretzel & cookie dust.  So some of the pieces were still a bit chunky.  I was lazy and the bag developed a hole, so I didn’t crumb it up as many times as I could have.  I don’t actually have a microplane at my apartment either so the lemon-lime pie only got juiced and not zested.  No big deal in either case.

Con: Lack of flaky buttery crust.  This may be a deal breaker for some of you, especially if you are like me and the pie crust is your favourite part of the entire pie.  You don’t have to go through the hassle/headache of creating a buttery pie crust but you don’t get to enjoy it either.  Trust me, there will be plenty of time for that later as There Will Be More Pies.  Also, don't worry because you will still use the requisite amount of butter that a respectable pie would demand, just in other areas.

Con: May need to widen the apartment doorways by Thanksgiving.  The critical part of the Great Pie Experiment is having a willing taste-testing audience.  As much as you think you can, you shouldn’t sample all of the pies by yourself.  Straight out of the tin with a fork.  Sitting in front of the TV.  Find a crowd of people with appropriate dietary concerns and watch them taste and become your best friends.

Result: Both pies were tasty and were gobbled (zing) up within a few days although I’ll have to give the edge to the No-Bake French Silk Pie because (a) it was no bake and (b) was super easy and quick to make.  I love cream cheese, so I thought I’d really enjoy the lemon-lime pie but it didn't hit the spot like a classic cheesecake would.  Also, for that particular pie, I would exclude the cocoa powder for the cookie crust, it doesn’t need that hint of chocolate.

As there are still 10 weekends until Thanksgiving, I have a few more pies to try out.  I’ve already earmarked this peanut butter ice cream one (thanks Lauren) and this banana salted caramel one to try next.  Any recommendations of your favourite pie recipes or maybe just one that you want to see me make?

Sunday morning

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dallas Sunday morning sunrise

I’m ignoring all the things this morning.

I’m ignoring the impending fall work / travel schedule, as well as the PR segment that I’m filming for the local paper later this week.  I’m paying no attention to the farrier bill for Ryon resting underneath my elbow and the gigantic one from the vet that’s on its way toward me via post.  I’m not even going to give another ounce of worry to the white hair that I found in my hairbrush.

Instead I’m focusing on this pale Sunday morning.  I’m curled up on the living room floor with ice coffee and soaking in the early morning light streaming in the wall of windows.  There’s a miscellaneous acoustic jam playing softly in the background, too indistinctly for me to make out any words.  I wiped down the furniture with almond wood polish the previous evening and a hint of the almond scent still lingers in the air.  I suppose this is what they mean when they say to relax and enjoy the moment.  The moment is soft, quiet, and calm.  I could be the only person awake in the world.  If this morning was a colour, it’d be a light peach with glowing gold tinges at the edges.

In another moment, the planes overhead will roar and the rest of the city sounds will break the silence.  The A/C will stutter to life, and a dog across the hall will start screaming bloody murder.  Text messages and emails will ping across, and the Twitterverse will be awash with the current events of the world, both good and bad.

I’ll be capturing this moment in a glass cloche and placing it on a shelf in my mind.  And then in the midst of everyday cacophony, filled with trivial frenzy and madness, I’ll pull it down and take a deep, deep breath of this Sunday morning.

An update on my poor boy

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I had planned on including a completely different blog post piece this week, but this is the one that happened to come up the past few days.  Bear with me while I get things in order.

Despite the brief respite we had with a burst of thunderstorms, appearing and disappearing in a fast fury, the summer has turned unfathomably hotter.  The days drag out into decades, particularly in the afternoons when even a lick of shade is difficult to find and the air is still and stifling.  Each hoof step sends up a puff of dust as the horses stomp their feet to drive away pesky flies in the blazing summer afternoons.  Chubby Willow and her inability to properly sweat and some of the more sensitive horses don’t bear up well under the heat.

It’s been four months since Ryon’s diagnosis with ringbone in April, and every hitchy twitchy step since has sent my nerves tingling.  Last week, Ryon had been off balance and shifting weight off of his right hand side.  Dr. Anderson, our vet, paid the barn a monthly visit on Friday and after petting on his velvet nose and paying him All the Compliments, he did a bit of diagnostic work on him.  After a full examination and countless x-rays, it has turned out to be (surprise, surprise) the same issue from before.  Our friend Ryon is put together the way a child would draw a horse: big head, short neck, big body, and teeny tiny feet.  Unfortunately, those teeny tiny feet take all the weight of his massive body.  The official term for his condition is fetlock osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease.  This is an incurable condition, although one that can be managed.  There are a few options that we have available to lessen the progression of deterioration and his general discomfort.

So, exactly around the time when he was expecting dinner on Friday evening, Ryon received the ugly surprise of hyaluronic acid injections in his front and back right and was wrapped up with more of those despised neon green vet bandages.  Don’t worry ladies and gents, he’s currently doing really well and not in any pain.  The vet has cleared him for regular activity, but my trainer and I are taking it a bit easy on him for now.  All of us are continuing to assess his daily progress and what it means for his long-term health.  This comes as a blow to us because we’ve all seen how he’s come to truly enjoy jumping, the higher the jumps the better.  Ryon gets impatient waiting for his “turn” to go over the jump course, and it’s depressing to think his most favourite activity may not be in his best interests.

For the time being, I’m working on minimizing any of his discomfort and exploring viable options for treating what he has.  My vet and trainer have both recommended a beta test technology out of Europe that’s proven quite effective there.  Whatever the path is for him, it will be in his best interests and I’ll keep you all posted, as always.

The End of Summer by Rachel Hadas

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Because this speaks perfectly to me lately - enjoy.

The End of Summer
By Rachel Hadas

Sweet smell of phlox drifting across the lawn—
an early warning of the end of summer.
August is fading fast, and by September
the little purple flowers will all be gone.

Season, project, and vacation done.
One more year in everybody’s life.
Add a notch to the old hunting knife
Time keeps testing with a horny thumb.

Over the summer months hung an unspoken
aura of urgency. In late July
galactic pulsings filled the midnight sky
like silent screaming, so that, strangely woken,

we looked at one another in the dark,
then at the milky magical debris
arcing across, dwarfing our meek mortality.
There were two ways to live: get on with work,

redeem the time, ignore the imminence
of cataclysm; or else take it slow,
be as tranquil as the neighbors’ cow
we love to tickle through the barbed wire fence
(she paces through her days in massive innocence,
or, seeing green pastures, we imagine so).

In fact, not being cows, we have no choice.
Summer or winter, country, city, we
are prisoners from the start and automatically,
hemmed in, harangued by the one clamorous voice.

Not light but language shocks us out of sleep
ideas of doom transformed to meteors
we translate back to portents of the wars
looming above the nervous watch we keep.

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