All-of-this-Mixed-Up-and-Baked-in-a-Beautiful Blueberry Galentines Pie

Happy Galentines weekend, all! (If you've never heard of Galentines, go ahead and click on the link for a tutorial and welcome to the holiday! I'm unabashedly channeling Leslie Knope in this post.)  Instead of our typical weekend gems post, I wanted to send a little love & appreciation to all of our N+L internet Gal Fridays today (or is it Gals Friday?). If I could have a weekend wish, I would have you all over on Saturday for a long chat, good laughs, and some pie.  Since that's not in the cards, I thought I'd share my favorite pie recipe and raise a fork to you across the miles.

If you've seen the 2007 dark comedy film Waitress, you might remember that Jenna (Keri Russell) bakes a series of cathartic pies that she creates and names after her emotional state at the time, things like the Marshmallow Mermaid Pie, the Falling in Love Chocolate Mousse Pie, the I Don't Want Earl's Baby Pie, Baby Screamin' Its Head Off In The Middle of the Night & Ruinin' My Life Pie, and finally the I Can't Have No Affair Because It's Wrong and I Don't Want Earl to Kill Me Pie.

In that spirit I'm calling this the She's-All-of-This-Mixed-Up-and-Baked-in-a-Beautiful Blueberry Galentines Pie. (I lifted the title directly from a song* in the new Waitress musical.) Don't get me wrong, though, this could also be whipped up on Valentines, too, and called the Blueberry Declare-Your-Love Pie. It's G's favorite pie on earth. In fact, it's one of his love languages. Feel free to choose your holiday on this one.

photo by  Mark Boughton

photo by Mark Boughton

She's All of This Mixed Up and Baked in a Beautiful Blueberry Galentines Pie
{or} Blueberry Declare-Your-Love One-Crust Pie

1 9" prebaked pie shell (I have great luck with Pioneer Woman's pie crust recipe)

4 cups blueberries, rinsed and dried (can use frozen but fresh is 100 times better)

1 cup white sugar, divided into 3/4 c. and 1/4 c 

1 cup water

3 T. cornstarch (i.e., corn flour in Australia)

1. Line baked pie shell with 3 cups of blueberries

2. Combine 1 cup blueberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium high heat, boiling until soft.

3. In small bowl or mug, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 3 T cornstarch. Mix in a little (2 T or so) of the hot mixture and stir until smooth then add to pan with hot mixture.

4. Cook for a few minutes, stirring until warm and smooth and thick.

5. Cool and pour mixture onto berries in the pie shell.

6. Refrigerate for 2+ hours for pie to set. 

7. Serve with ice cream or fresh whipped cream. Go on, head back for seconds.

(A big thank you to my friend, Annette, who passed along this recipe to me many years ago.)

  • A few of those pie recipes from the movie Waitress
  • *The lovely Sara Bareilles song (from the new Waitress musical) that inspired the pie name:

Happy weekending!

Hygge for the holidays

Congratulations to Annie's Lauren on her engagement! Young love makes me at once hopeful for the future and nostalgic for my own family's giddy beginnings. The pronouncements I made! My children would never play with toy guns (no encouraging violence)! We would never go to bed angry! I would always be able to fit into my wedding dress! 

Oh, pish posh.

My current pronouncements involve sure-fire ways to stay connected with my young adult children and to build a  welcoming homebase that will be a haven for them and their future spouses and children. So when an article about the Danish concept of hygge as "drama-free family time" crossed my Facebook feed, I sat up and paid attention. I knew a little about hygge from Annie. A long, long time ago (seven years to be precise), Annie posted about hygge on Basic Joy. Hygge, pronounced hooga, is all about cozy, relaxed gatherings that focus on enjoying the moment -- the spaces, food, and company. "The Secret to Danish Happiness" calls hygge a "shelter from the outside world." 

That. I want hygge -- the coziness, the sheltering, the food. I want all of it. 

During the Thanksgiving holiday, I explained the basic principles of hygge to my kids, but mostly I tried to keep the foundational ideas in mind while planning family activities. Also, sometimes I, ahem, gently reminded them when they were acting in an un-hygglig manner. Maybe I'm a bit late to the game to raise my children as Danish prodigies, but I still find the philosophy helpful in formulating a family atmosphere where everyone feels included and accepted. You can read the entire article here, but the basic concepts are as follows:

  1. Come as you are. Be authentic. "Competition, boasting, and pretense are not bonding, but rather subtly dividing." So there.
  2. Don't be controversial. Hyyglig time is not when we should debate politics or philosophy, so in this spirit dispense with any negativity or judgment of other people's ideas.
  3. Act like a team member. THIS is the best one! Hygge includes everyone contributing to the event and to the conversation. Identify what needs to be done and pitch in without being asked. That seals it. I'm moving to Denmark.
  4. Respect the hygge. Jessica Alexander explains, "Hygge time is about providing a temporary shelter from social climbing, networking, competition, and materialism." So don't do that stuff!! Really. Just stop.
  5. Hygge time is special time. And because it is special, it is limited. By demarcating hygge time from other types of interaction, we can stock up on the warmth, love, and appreciation we need to face the outside world. Now that's what family should be about.

Generally speaking, hygge (and my study is admittedly limited), is about appreciating the moment and the simple pleasures of living. It's about the glow of the twinkle lights, the sweetness in a cup of hot cocoa, the warmth of conversation -- all absent of the motivations,  competitions, or worries of typical American modern life. And it's about helping others to enjoy those simple pleasures alongside us. 

So, not such a big order. Just erase 99% of the cultural norms I was raised on, and I'll be good. What about you? Can we start a hygge movement?

A few good gems

Happy Fourth of July!! We've got one kiddo flying in today, so we aren't starting our official festivities until the evening. But I'm thinking strawberries and blueberries for breakfast count for something. Right? If you have a spare moment between barbecues and swim parties, here are a few good gems for your perusing pleasure.

I love this short interview with Indra K. Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo. She's pretty sure that women can't have it all, and I tend to agree. She explains, "If you ask our daughters, I'm not sure they will say that I've been a good mom." Read the whole interview because there is a funny story about when her mom frankly told her the straight-up facts of being a woman. (Thanks to my sister Jennifer for this link.)

I'm listening to this podcast by David Sedaris. Of course it's funny.

This article in The Atlantic takes on the subject of missing mothers from classic children's fiction and animated movies. "Bambi's mother, shot. Nemo's mother, eaten by a barracuda. Lilo's mother, killed in a car crash. Koda's mother in Brother Bear, speared. Po's mother in Kung Fu Panda 2, done in by a power-crazed peacock. Ariel's mother in the third Little Mermaid, crushed by a pirate ship. Human baby's mother in Ice Age, chased by a saber-toothed tiger over a waterfall." WHY? Here's a guess -- "Mothers are killed so fathers can take over. And when plucky kids and plucky dads join forces, it looks like fun." Ummmmm. How rude.

Fourteen signs your not allergic to gluten. (I'm like the guy listed under "you and gluten will always be together.")

I made this garlic butter shrimp with quinoa for dinner last night. Super easy and super yummy.


Working on living this sentiment . . . watching my pile of good things grow. So . . . I'm off to my pile of weeds in the back yard, which, with a little luck, will be completely eradicated within the hour. Happy 4th everyone!


Valentine's day with big kids

Now that the calendar has ventured into February, I'm keen to say something about love and hearts and sparkly, pink glitter. Personally, I tend to leans toward the state of a mind that Valentine's Day is a made-up, greeting card holiday. But my kids love it, and I feel duty-bound to try to make a tradition out of every little thing so they'll forget those times when I was a screaming lunatic and locked myself in my room because THREE HUNDRED SOCKS ON THE LIVING ROOM FLOOR.

Plus, Valentine's Day can be a bit of let down for teenagers, particularly girls. I've realized of late that Rebecca is a hopeless romantic, and hopeless romantics especially love Valentine's Day. And sometimes, you've just got to help a hopeless romantic out.

From the time our kids were little, Sterling and I have celebrated our kids with a special Valentine's breakfast. We decorate the table and use heart plates, and I gather a few small, lovey gifts to put next to each place setting (and by lovey, I mean clothes for the girls and something weapon-like for PJ). In years past Sterling has made pink, strawberry milk, pink scrambled eggs, and heart shaped pancakes alongside hashbrowns and bacon and any other fatty breakfast concoction we can dream up. One year we even hung pink and red and white streamers and balloons in the doorway to the kitchen so the kids could run through. It was very . . . celebratory.

As the kids have entered high school (with early morning activities), we've had to adjust the festivities (because no one really enjoys a Valentine breakfast at 5:15 AM). I think this year we will have a Valentine dinner the night before (Thursday night) -- but we'll be serving breakfast for dinner, which is one of my favorite things in the entire world. So I'd better get thinking about decorations and menu items.

This recipe for Cream Cheese-Stuffed Lemon French Toast with Strawberries seems, well, divine. 

Or these Mini Puffed Oven Pancakes with Berry Sauce. I've actually made these before and loved them, but be sure to double the recipe because the kids need a lot to fill them up.

via OurBestBites

via OurBestBites

Oh Happy Day has an entire list of fun ideas. I'm kind of hip on Heart Balloons in a Closet. It's a simple but unexpected surprise to brighten up my family's day. 

These fantastic fruit stickers have been making their way around the Internet for a few years now, and I'm thinking of printing some out for lunches. Nothing says 'high school cool' like lovey fruit stickers. 

I'm also considering this heart t-shirt. They had some hip, raglan-sleeve heart shirts for a while, but they seem to be gone. Need. Raglan. Valentine. Shirt.

And for my daughters who are far, far away? Love these printable love cards by Jones Design Company. 

via JonesDesignCompany

via JonesDesignCompany

Sharing a little love on Valentine's Day is a fun, memory-filled tradition for our family. And since that family is currently winging its way out the door -- I plan to live it up while the getting is good! Hearts for everyone . . .

Now dehibernating

Hello friends! I've been looking forward to jumping back in here, compiling mental lists and things to tell you, and yet I'm suddenly feeling inexplicably awkward and nervous as I sit here writing this.  It feels kind of like going back to school after a long break--will my friends still be the same? Are rainbow shirts/leg warmers/Guess jeans still in? Will we all still sit at the same lunch table? 

Anyway, I've started three different posts here but I think what I'll do is catch up a little on a few highlights of our last few weeks before I delve into some of the other thoughts patiently waiting (or more possibly shimmying and doing the limbo) in my head. Posts for another day.

Remember how we went to the US for a month at Christmastime? Because we were going to be there that long, we knew we would want to have a home base rather than be nomadic (or impose on longsuffering relatives) that whole time. We really lucked out with this rental--the top floor of a barn made into a lovely guest house that the owners rent out when their own guests aren't visiting. It was heated by this fabulous Swedish tile stove in the center of the cabin; we definitely earned our firestarting merit badges in that month. The kids each had their own lofts with beds and there was even a swing right there next to the fireplace. We'll definitely be back.


We wanted to fill up on time with family, since we're so far away from our people all the rest of the year. We managed to squeeze in a couple of local friend visits, too, but this one was mostly about getting our family fix. 

Visiting my grandparents at their house

Visiting my grandparents at their house

Sam and my grandma, bookends on four generations

Sam and my grandma, bookends on four generations

All of my siblings were home this Christmas--lots of movies and music and games and laughing.  This photo (of my brother Chris and my dad) pretty much sums it up:


We got to Skype with Lauren on Christmas. She sounded so good and seems really happy, confident and older. We managed to hold it together until the very end, when we valiantly tried to sing her a Christmas carol but it ended up a sad little mess of a song through our tears. I have never mastered the skill of singing through tears, have you? I need lessons.


We took the kids skiing for their first time ever. It took a couple of weeks for the snow to arrive but then we hit the local resort where G and I both learned. (I used Sarah's list of gear and it worked like a charm.) Skiing's tough--I remember hating it my first couple of times--but they were troopers, starting from scratch with a new skill/sport in their ripe old teen years. (We did spring for a private instructor because they were not at all interested in the bunny hill school with the little kids.) They really got the hang of it and at least neither of them swore they'd never return to ski again.


We also tried cross-country skiing. We were total newbies and it showed. As Maddy said, for us this could better be called "synchronized falling." Lots of maniacal falling and uncontrollable laughing. Not a good combination for being able to get back up. Maddy got a shot of this one, featuring G and me. I think we look like we are (or wish we are) at the beach:


And now, back in summery Australia, I'm surfing the wave of jetlag (early rising, early fading) and feeling recharged and ready for my mundane, stay-put, lovely life again.  I say a big amen to this Ann Patchett line: "I think the best vacation is the one that relieves me of my own life for a while and then makes me long for it again." 

So that's where I've been. How about you? 

. . .

p.s. Man, I'm paying the price for my willy-nilly holiday eating. It was the Tour of Food, y'all, and I was the groupie, number one fan, and tour guide all in one!  Time to pay the piper--and apparently the piper likes to be paid in green leafy veggies, moderation, water, restraint, and exercise. 

Cinema for big kids: Holiday edition

By the time this posts, I'll (hopefully) be in the air on the lonnnnng but happy flight home for the holidays. But before I go, a quick post to celebrate holiday movies, second only to music in setting my Christmas barometer to "festive." Here's a list of holiday films (and some tv episodes)--obvious and maybe not-so-obvious--to consider for your holiday viewing this year:

  • Elf. (2003) Of course.
  • It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Of course. Every single year. Buffalo girls won't you come out tonight?
  • John Denver and The Muppets--A Christmas Together (1979): A must-see Muppet Christmas tv episode. Classic--we also love the soundtrack from this one.
  • Little Women (any version but I like the 1994 one with Claire Danes and Wynona Ryder and Christian Bale(!) for its winter scenes). Sure, it's not a Christmas movie per se but the holiday scenes are so evocative! 
  • The Bishop's Wife (1947): A Bishop prays for guidance and Cary Grant appears as the Angel Dudley. Trailer here
  • Meet Me in St. Louis (1944): How can you resist Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas?" 
  • A Christmas Story (1983): Ralphie's Christmas quest for a Red Ryder BB gun, his dad's leg lamp, the tongue on the icy flagpole. (Some language; we learned through experience this one isn't really for the younger end of the spectrum.)
  • The Bells of St. Mary's (1945): Not technically a Christmas movie but it contains one of my all-time favorite Christmas nativity scenes:
  • Holiday Inn (1942): Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire. Need I say more?
  • White Christmas (1954): Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney come together to save a Vermont Inn with music. 
  • Sleepless in Seattle (1993): Not a Christmas movie either but some of the crucial scenes happen on Christmas Eve and can you really go wrong with Nora Ephron?
  • Home Alone (1990): Christmas overload! 
  • Little House on the Prairie (1974): What better way to catch the Christmas spirit than joining the Ingalls in their Christmas at Plum Creek episode (even if you're a little distracted by all the leaves on the trees and bushes in December in  "Minnesota")
  • The Waltons original tv pilot movie (1971): The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. This one's for you, Sarah:

Enjoy! Now, what am I missing? What are your holiday movie favorites?

How do you handle the work of Christmas?

First off, I have to say I laughed all day yesterday about the "branding" of Father's Famous Flapjacks. Part of my amusement came from my realization that I've sort of branded something with my husband. You see, part of the time Sterling works from home, and 98% of this is wonderful. But every now and then I get a hankering to have the house to myself. For some unknown reason, I've taken to saying, "Okay. Go to work. It's my super-special-me time." Sterling finds it humorous, and he totally gets it. Super-special-me time. It's a thing.

Now, on to today's material . . .


Rebecca and I have a penchant for Lifetime Christmas movies. I understand they are formulaic and often ridiculous. At times I spend the bulk of the movie criticizing the improbability or predictability of their inane plots. Still, I can't help it; I like watching them. Yesterday afternoon we flipped to a movie I recognized from last year, On Strike for Christmas. The movie starts out with the mom desperately trying to corral her two teenage sons and husband into those preambles of the Christmas season: picking out the tree and putting up the decorations. Of course, the boys have other plans and the husband just plain isn't interested. After a failed attempt at hanging the outside lights herself, the movie momma throws up her hands and calls a strike. Then a bunch of Lifetime stuff happens . . . and the men of the family realize they need to pitch in for Christmas, and the mom learns that the holidays don't require perfect decorations or exquisitely produced foods . . . the family just needs to be together.

All at once now . . . aaaaawwwwwwww.

As we were watching Becca remarked, "We're not like that at all."


No, they're not like THAT. But, I do find, as the kids get older, they are not quite so enthusiastic about bringing down the boxes of Christmas decorations. They definitely want all of the old traditions, but perhaps served on the side -- leaving them free to participate or abandon as their interest waxes and wanes. I totally get this. Sometimes I feel the same.


Last year we sat the kids down and asked them each to submit three things that made the holiday feel special. I really wanted to pare down the superfluous activities that were stifling our teens and making me nigh-on-to-crazy as the grand ringmaster of nagging. They definitely wanted to keep making gingerbread houses (phew!). They wanted to deliver gifts to neighbors and friends. They wanted to go to Starbucks for hot chocolate and then drive around looking at lights. They looked forward to our white elephant gift exchange with extended family. They wanted to host our annual Christmas Eve party.

Those five things were my priorities in celebrating the Christmas season with my kids. I downsized the decorations, since no one else was interested in putting them up or taking them down. I dispensed with the ONE-REALLY-FUN-ACTIVITY-EACH-DAY advent thing. I kept the Christmas music playing and the hot chocolate flowing. And it was enough. And the Christmas nagging was kept to the bare minimum.

What about you? How does your family divvy the holiday responsibilities? Any tips for simplifying?