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Sailboat Strawberry Pie

Yesterday I tried to post this recipe but instead I got carried away talking all about our wonderful anniversary/family visit. And as much as I loved pouring over family photos that week, I equally loved spending one-on-one time visiting with my mother-in-law. I realize that the cliche is a mother-in-law who meddles and sticks her nose in and disapproves of everything, but my mother-in-law is anything but that. She’s absolutely lovely. She reminds me a lot of my Aunt Sue – my mother’s beloved Aunty who passed away when I was 16. I spent my childhood at Aunt Sue’s heels while she baked cakes and served fairy tea in miniature china teacups. I spent hours with my head resting on her ample bosom, while she told stories about her childhood home, our nation’s capital, the illustrious Washington D.C.  She’s been gone for years, but I see her in my mother-in-law. The way Mom pads around the kitchen in red knit ballet slippers, telling stories about her childhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where her mother lived her entire life in a two-bedroom house with no kitchen sink. We spent our mornings immersed in photo albums, our afternoons cooking, and every evening I curled up at her feet like a cat and asked for more stories. More!

When Michael’s parents were first married, they owned a beautiful sailboat that they’d take out for weeks at a time. Michael cut his teeth sailing and I have seen the photos to prove it. (omgsoadorable.)  The following is a recipe for the strawberry pie Michael’s mother used to make on the boat whenever they went out to sea. It’s unbelievably easy and it’s probably one of the best strawberry pies I’ve ever eaten.

Sailboat Strawberry Pie

Oven: This will depend on the type of crust you use
Prep: 30 min.
Bake: Nada
What You’ll Need:
frozen/refrigerated pie crust
fresh strawberries
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
whipping cream
sugar
vanilla extract

We started with a Marie Callender’s frozen pie crust. I was skeptical because I’ve always insisted on baking my own pie crusts from scratch, but this pie crust was so delicious – flaky, tender, flavorful – I don’t know if I’ll ever go to the trouble of making a crust from scratch again. We followed the instructions on the box, which were something along the lines of “take the crust out of the box, prick it all over with a fork, bake it for 15 minutes, voila!”

While the crust was in the oven, we washed the strawberries, trimmed their tops off, and set them out to dry. It’s important that the strawberries are completely dry before you put them in the pie.

When the crust had baked and cooled, you sift 1 cup of powdered sugar evenly into the pie crust.

When the strawberries are completely dry, you arrange them in the powdered sugar dusted pie crust.

strawberries

We were only about half-done filling the crust with strawberries at this point…

Next, sift 1 more cup of powdered sugar over the strawberries, covering evenly and completely.

If you want to make your own whipped cream, now is the time. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to your whipping cream and whip on high while slowly adding sugar to taste. We forgot to buy whipping cream, but Mom had Cool Whip on hand and that worked perfectly.

Cover your pie with whipped cream (or Cool Whip) like so:

whipping cream

You want to completely cover the pie with whipped cream, much the way you would cover a meringue-topped pie with meringue – sealed all the way to the edges. Put the pie in the fridge for two or three hours to chill before serving. Voila! You’re done! Easy peasy and completely delicious.

fini

Now I wish I’d taken a photo of the pie once it was cut and plated because in addition to being delicious, it was also gorgeous. But you’re just going to have to take my word for it. Now onward! Make pies!

Perfectly Perfect Perfect

When we moved from Hells Kitchen to Harlem I was working eleven hours a week and Mike was unemployed and on Spring break from school. We were able to spend the better part of every day cleaning, unpacking, decorating, nesting, and we were all settled in a matter of weeks. It was fantastic. But this time I’ve been at work every day and Mike’s had to do most of the heavy lifting without me.  Me, who likes to do everything myself because I want everything to be perfectly perfect perfect.

This has been the source of several very high energy moments in the past couple of weeks. Mike is very patient and very laid back, and I am the Tazmanian Devil. We signed our lease on a Monday but by Tuesday I’d spent four days decorating the apartment in my mind and making long lists of everything that needed to be cleaned.

One morning as Mike was driving me to the office, we had a huge fight.  Except it wasn’t really a fight. Calling it a fight implies yelling and screaming, and that’s not our style.  Anyway, immediately after lecturing Michael on how I won’t be able to live in the apartment until the bathrooms have been scrubbed inside and out, I started telling him that I thought it would be fabulous to decorate said bathrooms with all gold vintage decor.  He made a face at me and said he thought that was the most horrible idea I’d ever come up with ever.

Except not really. What he said was, “That will look really tacky,” but what I heard was, “That is the most horrible idea you’ve ever come up with ever. Also, you are fat and ugly.”

When he dropped me at work I was nearly in tears. I was also on my way to being late for work, so I couldn’t sit in the car and talk about how I was feeling. Instead I had to sit in my office and stew about it.  And stew I did, for a nice long while. Then I texted him:

“I love you. I want for this to be a fun and happy time for us.  I want to feel like you accept me and like my ideas. It’s crushing when you think my ideas are stupid. You’re my best friend and when you think my ideas are stupid it’s really painful. So far you’ve hated every idea I have and I’m starting to feel like this is your apartment, not ours.”

Don’t you love how dramatic I am? It’s so awful it’s funny, right? “So far you’ve hated every idea I have…” Straight out of Days of Our Lives, the generic suburban version.

He texted back:

“All I’m doing is cleaning. I understand how you feel. I’m sorry. I don’t want to feel the same – like you want to make this your apartment, and all I do is scrubbing and hauling. The good news is that we are not in a huge hurry. I want us to work together to make a home. I respect your ideas, and I know we can make this work.”

I took a deep breath. Why was I so angry? I mean, seriously. Sixties gold décor in the eighties-era bathroom with the clamshell sink. It wouldn’t have worked at all. So I called my mother and my girlfriends, some of the most brilliant and wonderful women I know. “What should I doooooo?????” I whined. They all three said the same thing. They pointed out that we both had valid points and we’d both expressed a desire to work through the situation.  They said we were ahead of the game. They offered help, advice, encouragement, and comfort.  They made me laugh. And Kim gave me complete instructions for how to wash out my filthy dishwasher, something I otherwise would not, for the life of me, have known how to do.

I wasn’t angry that Mike didn’t like my ideas. I was angry because he was doing it all without me. I felt like I was missing out on everything.  All the cleaning, all the moving, all the furniture-arranging.  He thought he was getting a big chore out of the way, but I felt like I was being cheated of an opportunity to nest – something I’d been aching to do since August. Meanwhile, here he is, spending his days scrubbing and hauling while I yammer on about curtains and throw pillows and give lectures on how to clean the toilet. No wonder he didn’t have the patience to talk about gold vintage décor.

When we finally got another chance to talk, we realized that we were both aiming for the same thing – a fabulous little home we’ll love for the next two to five years, depending on how long it takes us to save up for a house.  Once we figured that out, we were able to talk about all of the things that needed to get done, his priorities and mine, and I realized that moving comes before decorating and maybe my evenings were better spent scrubbing the filthy toilet instead of shopping online. Which, of course, was what I really wanted to be doing anyway.  After all, there is nothing in the world like a freshly scrubbed toilet.

This is probably TMI

freckled lilies

It’s very strange to eat dinner knowing that you will very likely see that meal again in just a few hours.  I started a new birth control pill yesterday, and Doc warned me I might feel nauseated for the first week, so when I woke up at three-thirty this morning with that awful feeling in my gut, not the one where you feel like you’re going to throw up, but the one where you know you’re going to throw up, I just went with it.  Usually when I feel like that, I hold out for as long as possible.  Of course, usually I’m at a party and I don’t want to be that girl throwing up in the bathroom, so there’s that.  (Sidenote: It’s been almost exactly two years since I last drank so much I threw up.  I happen to think that’s fantastic.  It turns out that when you drink responsibly, you don’t puke your guts out all night!)

As I fled our pitch-dark bedroom for the glaring fluorescents of the bathroom, I had a fleeting urge to wake Michael and ask him to hold my hand.  That’s what I used to do when I was a kid. Whenever I got sick I’d knock on Mama’s door and she’d come hold my hand and rub my back and whisper comforting words.  But I’m a grown woman now, haven’t woken my mother up in the middle of the night since I was a wild college girl, and then it was because of the trouble I was causing.  So I didn’t wake Mike, but put my hair in a ponytail and wrapped my arms around that porcelain god and —

“Babygirl, shh….”  And his hands were on my back, warm and soothing, and he whispered kind words and wiped my face with a towel, and brought me ginger beer with ice to sip when I was done.  Internet, I love that man.

Michael didn’t want me to go on the pill.  We tried it once and the hormones made me swollen and crazy and frigid.  I tried three different prescriptions over nine months and had varying degrees of disgusting symptoms on each one.  But this last year my periods went from blegh to seven full days of misery so awful I was in bed for at least three of them and when Mike complained for the third month in a row that he couldn’t sleep because of my thrashing, I said Screw It.  If there’s one thing I had loved about being on the pill, it was the sweet little cramp-free periods.  So Mike and I talked it over at length and we decided to give it another go, try a fourth prescription.  And I promised, if there was any crazy, or any loss of interest in our married people activities, I’d stop taking it.

In March Doc put me on Junel Fe 1/20 and I loved it.  I loved that I didn’t gain any weight, in fact, I’ve lost seven pounds since I started it.  I loved that my skin looked amazing, I loved that Mike and I were behaving more like honeymooners than ever.  But I didn’t love that I was having a full, seven-day, horrible, sick in bed with cramps period in the second week of the pill pack every month.  On the fourth week, the week when you’re supposed to bleed, I’d spot.  A little.  I also didn’t like the fact that I’m pretty sure I ovulated last month.

Yesterday I went back to the clinic and Doc upped my dosage to Junel Fe 1.5/30, warned me I might feel nauseous, and sent me on my way.  And then last night happened.  Mike is pretty horrified.  I’m not thrilled.  But I’m going to take it again today, on the off-chance that maybe tonight, even if I wake up nauseous, I won’t throw up. In other words, I’m hoping my body will start to get used to the hormones. Mike thinks if tonight is a repeat of last night, I should stop taking the pill entirely.  He doesn’t want me to wait a week to see if it gets better, he’s concerned it’s too toxic for my body.

What do you think, Internet?  Have you ever had a similar experience?

UPDATE 6/23/10:  Slept through the night, no nausea, no vomiting!! Woo Hoo! So, so, so, so happy.  Crossing my fingers that the rest of the month is vomit-free.

On our favorite Thai place in Thai Town, Hollywood

Him: If I can’t see the little old Thai ladies cooking in the kitchen, we’re leaving.

Me: Ok.

Him: And the only reason I won’t hate you for dragging me away from them, all the way to New York where all the Thai food is heinously Americanized, is because they’d started the renovations before we moved.

Me: Wait … what?

Him: I’m just saying, it’s grounds for retroactive resentment.

I had a dream last night

The other night I dreamt that Mike and I were hiking the JMT, something he did with his brother in real life last summer, and that we’re planning to do together summer after next.  In the dream we are crossing a narrow, wobbly bridge, the kind of bridge that seems to be suspended from heaven, that looks like it will evaporate if you stare at it too hard.  The bridge hangs over a ravine, so high up there’s nothing below us but sky.  We’ve made it all the way from one end to the next and now have the arduous task of climbing from the foot of the bridge to the lip of a cliff.

A soft wind blows and the bridge sways.  Clouds lick at our ankles, whisper a warning: Don’t look down!  The end of the bridge is at least three feet from the lip of the cliff; we’ll have to lean forward as we reach up, over our heads, grab hold of the ledge and pull our bodies up and through a small crack in the granite.   The land ahead of us is green, flowering, pristine, exquisite.  We are bathed in dappled pools of sunlight, but the threat of danger cannot be shaken, the risk of losing grip, a slight misstep, a fall to our death.

I close my eyes.  I know I can do this with his help.  I know that as long as he’s there I will be safe.  He tells me where to place my hands in the rocks, how far to lean, which way to stretch.  I listen carefully, let his words guide me.  In a moment my feet leave the bridge and I am suspended, clinging spider-like to the side of the mountain, eyes squeezed shut, Mike’s voice in my ear.  My body feels weightless, the breeze plays with my hair, the sun shines warm on my face.  And then I am there, standing in a field of wild flowers, and Mike is laughing.  We did it.

I woke up thinking, “That is what marriage is like.”

I keep trying to put my finger on that impulse, the half-conscious realization, “that is what marriage is like.”  But I’m not sure what I meant.  In An Open Life, Joseph Campbell says, “Marriage is an ordeal.  It means yielding time and again.  That’s why it’s a sacrament.  You give up your personal simplicity to participate in a relationship, and when you are giving, you are not giving to the other person, you are giving to the relationship.  And if you realize that you are in the relationship just as the other person is, then it becomes life-building; a life fostering and enriching experience, not an impoverishment, because you are giving to somebody else.  This is the challenge of a marriage.  What a beautiful thing is a life together; is growing personalities.  Each helping the other to flower, rather than just moving into the standard archetype.  It’s a wonderful moment when people can make the decision to be quite astonishing and unexpected, rather than to become cookie-mold products.  Failure to recognize that is the main reason for the high divorce rate that we experience today.”

Mike and I will soon celebrate our four-year wedding anniversary.  We haven’t been married very long, in the grand scheme of things, but we have learned a lot in our four years of marriage.  One of the things I’ve learned is how little people in general value marriage.  How quick they are to judge, turn their noses up, crack jokes about tuna casserole and joint bank accounts.  I’ve learned not to tell anyone when Mike and I have an argument because people are too quick to jump to conclusions, suggest other fish in the sea.  I’ve learned to ignore the rolling of eyes when I say I’ll check with Mike before making plans, or when I decline a second round of drinks because my husband is waiting at home.  I’ve learned to ignore the looks of pity, turn my back to the whispers of lost independence, pretend not to notice the comments about how fun I “used to be”.

Being married isn’t about falling in love and having a fancy wedding and then going about life as usual.  Marriage changes everything.  It’s not about me anymore; it’s not about what I want or what’s best for me or what makes me happy.  I’m married now.  It’s about us; it’s about what we want, what’s best for us as a family, what makes us happy.  I promised to love him and honor him though richer, though poorer, through sickness, through health, until my death parts us.  They’ll tell you that about kids – that once you have kids you have to put them before yourself, you have to think about their needs before you think of your own.  That’s true for marriage too.  No, I won’t have that second drink because the man I promised to devote my life to is waiting at home and honestly?  There isn’t anywhere on Earth I’d rather be than curled up in his arms.  I don’t care if you think I used to be more fun because when shit hits the fan and the world starts spinning out of control, he’s the one who’s going to take my hand and help me through it.  He’s the one who promised to love me and honor me and cherish me.  He’s the one.

Marriage is an ordeal.  It’s a union to be valued, treasured, respected and cared for.  It can be difficult and frightening, there is always the risk of failure, a slight misstep, a fall to our death.  But we’re bathed in dappled pools of sunlight, the wind in our hair and a laugh on our lips.  Marriage may not be right for everyone, but it’s perfect for me.

wedding