I had a moment last week when I looked around at Sam and I racing to get Oliver a second glass of milk while simultaneously making lunch for the next day, running his bath and washing one of Frankie’s bottles and thought: what have we done? We’d hardly talked to one another since we got home and we both had an agenda the second Oliver was asleep: Sam to catch up on unfinished work, me to do some yoga and shower before bed. Two passing ships.
To say that life looked different years ago when we met is an understatement: obviously we didn’t have kids then, we both were self employed and hustling to make a dream work. Today there’s less of that constant hustle as we both make moves to settle in and work for other companies with actual health care and steady pay checks. Imagine!
But I had a vision the other day of the crux of what made us us … sailing away. Back then, we dreamed we’d open up a studio called Pies and Pixels: I’d bake and sell pies and Sam would design and we’d have this coworking space where the community would come together. Sam is most fulfilled when he’s creating. And in a way I am, too. But these days, the dream of Pies and Pixels has changed. It’s no longer in close reach — for so many reasons. Nor would either of us say it was a particularly good decision for the stage of life we’re in. But lately, I’ve realized I miss the dreaming part, our modern version of Pies and Pixels.
When I talked to Sam about it, expressing my fear that we were losing parts of ourselves that made us us, he said it wasn’t so. It was just that now we were living the thing versus just dreaming about the thing. Sure it looks different now, but this is it playing out in real time rather than just inside our heads.
I’m reading a book right now called Overwhelmed, kind of a study of our busyness culture (the subtitle is, “How to Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time” — I’m here for that!). I just finished the chapter on leisure time and how Americans have lost the ability to recognize, use and enjoy it. One of the leisure researchers started his discussion by defining leisure as “being open to the wonder and marvel of the present.” I love this so much, and it’s not all that different from what Sam was saying: we’re now living our lives in the present instead of dreaming them up. And while many days that contributes to this sense of overwhelm and loss of time to think about Big Ideas, it also forces us to keep our feet planted firmly in the moment we’re in. And there’s something special comforting about that, too.
In the spirit of Pies and Pixels combined with the reality of busy, modern lives I bring you today a very simple peach crisp. I love making pie, but it is certainly a bit more of a commitment than a crisp or a crumble and sometimes you’ve got ripe fruit on the counter and a tiny window of free time — and neither one can wait.
Fruit crisps are all about simplicity so no need to peel the peaches here – the skins soften in the oven. Coconut oil tends to be soft at room temperature but not necessarily liquid unless your kitchen is quite hot, so warm it in the microwave or on the stovetop until it’s liquid for this recipe. The crisp is best eaten the day it’s made.
For the Topping:
For the Filling:
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In an 9×11 inch baking dish, mix together the sliced peaches, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the oats, pecans, almond meal, brown sugar and salt. Mix in the coconut oil and stir until combined.
Spoon the topping over the peaches to cover them evenly. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the fruit juices are bubbling and the topping is deep golden brown. Transfer baking dish to a wire rack and allow to cool for 1 hour before serving.
The crisp is best enjoyed the day it’s made, but it holds up just fine, covered and on the countertop for up to two days.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)