Butternut Squash Pie!

November 5, 2017

So…’tis the season!  This is without doubt my favorite pie.  It’s a recipe of my mom’s that I first made during my last visit with my late grandmother, March of 2014.  I’ve already posted the recipe, already attempted with mere words to convey its otherworldly deliciousness–here is that info. (also, remember when I took a road trip of the eastern United States?! exactly how many millions of years ago was that?!)

At the bakery, I often made this recipe with pumpkin puree instead of butternut; volume made the readily available option exceedingly attractive, and I caved in the name of time saving.  However, I really do think that butternut makes the better pie.  I find the flavor more subtle than pumpkin and infinitely more….buttery, I guess, is the right word.

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Now.  If you’re anything like me, you’re equally attracted and deterred by the beautiful squash bounty this time of year.  The odd shapes and vivid colors are alluring, so quintessentially autumnal.  You’d like to buy them all…until your subconscious puts on the breaks, knowing full well that underneath their bright and armored exteriors is a rather involved project of sorts.  Chopping, roasting, de-seeding, pureeing, etc.  And this lurking knowledge steers you toward more easily accessible food and, well, canned pumpkin.

Try to resist the Libby’s if you can, at least once to make this butternut squash pie.  It is worth it, I promise!  And, perhaps the best part of this recipe is that it can actually make 2 pies!if you don’t mind them being on the thinner side.  Personally, I prefer to make one generously filled pie and then bake the extra in a pudding ramekin/ramekins, or…as I did this last time, in an un-lined, crust-free pie tin.  It was a moment of sheer glory when I realized that I had a full pie to photograph, and could simultaneously shovel the same content into my afternoon-snack ready mouth.  Sorry, that’s kind of gross and graphic, but there’s no other way to say it.  This pie makes me ditch the appropriate food-to-spoon ratio.  It is so good.  (and full of vitamin A…)

HERE is the link to the recipe!

(and heck, if you just absolutely cannot get into butternut roasting/pureeing this year, then go on with the canned pumpkin…it will still be tops)

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***Quick note on texture! Not wanting to be too wordy about something that words simply cannot describe, I’ve steered away from trying to explain exactly why this pie is so good.  But, with the aid of the picture below, perhaps you’ll see. It bakes into two distinct layers: a smooth, silky layer of custard, and then a lighter, fluffier layer over the top.  I know that it’s not always desirable for custard to separate, but here, it’s in that “Magic Cake” category, wherein the layers are intriguing and delightful.

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My memory’s been jogged by the initial butternut squash pie post…I’m revisiting some favorite road trip music.  I experienced a major TV On The Radio phase in DC/Maryland; jazzy, raw and just shy of too much going on:

 

Concord Grape!

October 22, 2017

Concord grapes are a deliciously annoying fruit. My first hands-on experience with them was during an internship at a fine dining restaurant, and I was shocked and appalled by how seedy they were, and by the work required to render them edible (unless you enjoy crunching seeds). I still feel this way, but every fall for the last three years, I’ve made myself go through with incorporating them some way, some how, into baking.

This post is a round up of those techniques and a recipe or two. I’m including short-cut ideas where possible with the knowledge that perhaps not everyone gets a kick out of lengthy kitchen processes, or at least not all the time. (….though I have to admit that the from-scratch results are best in terms of flavor! less artificial candy, more musk and depth.)

Ah, and so, before I get much further, I have a confession about this year’s Concord grape extravaganza. I set out to make I know not what, some kind of grape sauce/compote situation, and then before I knew it, I was introducing eggs and butter to make a curd. The curd turned out just right, but unfortunately I didn’t keep track of measurements. Because I’m maniacally tackling a few different pre-baby to-do lists, I don’t think I’ll revisit Concord grape curd this year, but next year with more organized intentions!

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First up from 2015, the delicious Momofoku peanut butter & Concord grape pie. I recall that being a lengthy project…and so, so worth the time.

Second! I made this Concord grape jam from Epicurious last year, to slather between biscuits with butter, and to liven up a cream cheese danish at the bakery. It’s straightforward and excellent.

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This year, I’ve enjoyed the unmeasured Concord grape curd in the following ways, and assure you that jam (homemade or store-bought) can work in its place:

a) swirled into cream cheese frosting and sandwiched between cookies of your choosing–peanut butter, gingersnaps, shortbread…!  If using homemade cookies, I’d recommend rolling your dough into logs (1.5-2″ in diameter), and wrapping them tightly in parchment paper which you can freeze, and then slice and bake as desired.  This will give them a uniform, flat finish and an even surface area for filling, resulting in a quite civilized cookie sandwich (less like stuffing your face with an actual yo-yo).

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b) used as hand-pie/pop tart filler! Simply roll out your favorite pie dough into a large rectangle, divide it into equal rectangles, brush one half of the rectangles with water and top with 2-3 tablespoons of jam.  Top with the remaining rectangles and crimp around the edges to seal in the jam.  Freeze for at least 4 hours or up to a few weeks, and bake when desired!  (pre-baking, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar)

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Getting a little weird this morning, with one of those songs I thought I hated until I didn’t have time to push “next” on Pandora just seconds in, and it played out and hooked me–

 

These basically came together on their own, inspired by sweet-toothed breakfast daydreams.  It’s taken 29 years but I’ve come to terms with eggs and bacon just not being my thing; instead I let myself cut to the chase and go straight for anything nutty, fruity, or full of oats to start the day.  Anything that goes hand in hand with yogurt (and coffee!).  I appreciate the glory of a perfect eggs benedict, but have never experienced the slightest bit of order envy when that plate arrives tableside and there’s an ample yogurt/granola situation coming my way.  Forget protein, all I need is a bit of sweetness to stay satisfied!

And while I’m not exactly advocating a sugar coma for breakfast, unless it’s leftover birthday cake, I do think it’s worthwhile to look beyond oatmeal, granola, or granola bars for a more delicious option.

Enter…scones!  Unlike muffins, their standards do not rest so much on a soft crumb, and unlike biscuits, their standards do not rest so much on a perfected flake.  Instead…they’re kind of up for interpretation.  To some degree.  At least in America.  They’re a perfect medium for combining all sorts of personally curated components toward a delicious whole.  The beauty of it is, that without the restrictive ideals relegated to the aforementioned breakfast baked items, you can include hearty, bulky ingredients to round scones into a healthy-ish situation.  Nuts (ground or whole), fruit (dried or fresh), and of course, oats!

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As far as sweetness goes, I’ve long been inspired by the sugar-free marvel that IS Flour Bakery’s maple scone.  It’s like a bowl of oatmeal, baked and coated with a moisture trapping glaze.  Both substantive and naturally sweetened, it’s my ideal breakfast.

And so–I set out to make a similar sugar-free scone, incorporating some recent hankerings, and was not disappointed!  I used ground as well as chopped hazelnuts, lots of honey, and a just ripened pear.  There’s something fascinating about hazelnuts–the way their flavor changes depending on accompanying ingredients.  In this case, I can only explain their effect as buttery and indulgent.  Add honey, and you’ve got that perfect well-rounded bite of honey butter in, well, every bite.  The pear provides a fresh sweet note and additional moisture.

I used wholewheat flour as well as a handful of oats for good measure…and to keep that cardamom glaze in check!  First bite in and all that came to my mind was the most delicious baked doughnut imaginable.  Not sure that’s really the goal with scones, but whatever!–these are tender/soft on the inside but uphold a certain degree of density, have a lightly crisped exterior, and offer flavor twists and turns as you eat.  I am absolutely stockpiling them in my freezer for the long winter ahead with a new baby!

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Hazelnut, Honey & Pear Scones

– Ingredients –

210 g whole-wheat flour

65 g ground hazelnuts (I used Bob’s Red Mill!)

65 g old-fashioned rolled oats

1.5 t baking powder

1.5 t baking soda

3/4 t kosher salt

1 t cardamom

50 g hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

114 g cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

1 pear, ripe but firm, diced into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces

1 cold egg

150 g honey

80 g cold heavy cream

Glaze:

140 g confectioners’ sugar

2 T honey

2 T water

1 t cardamom

– Directions –

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  I like to freeze the unbaked scones and bake off as needed, so I use a small baking sheet that will fit in the freezer.  Otherwise, if baking immediately, use a standard sized pan that will allow for the scones to bake 2-3 centimeters apart.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the oats and hazelnuts, whisk to combine.  Using the paddle attachment and with the mixer on low speed, add the butter and mix until the butter begins to break down and incorporate–about 1 minute (some blueberry sized pieces should still be visible).  Scatter the pear dices over the mixture and mix on low until just incorporated.

Whisk together the egg and honey in a small bowl, and gradually whisk in the heavy cream.  Make sure the honey is well incorporated–it’ll want to stick to the bottom of the bowl. On low speed, pour the wet mixture into the dry, and beat for about 10 seconds.  Stop the mixer and make sure to scrape all of the wet ingredients into the bowl before returning the mixer to medium speed for about 20 seconds, or until it’s started to come together.  It’s important not to overmix the dough, so by all means feel free to take exacting control and finish it yourself with a spatula!

Using a standard muffin scoop or else a 1/2 measuring cup, scoop the dough into rounded portions onto the parchment lined baking sheet, 2-3 inches apart.  Put the baking sheet into the refrigerator to rest/chill for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 F.  (Alternatively, place the shaped scones closer together on the baking sheet, wrap with plastic, and stash away in the freezer!)

When ready, bake for about 30 minutes, or until the scones are lightly browned on the top, and when “squeezed” (lightly pressed around the sides with your middle finger and thumb), give a bit of resistance (somewhat firm, not doughy).

While scones are baking, whisk up the glaze.  Literally just whisk all ingredients together, adding more water if glaze seems too thick, adding more confectioners’ sugar if glaze seems too runny.  Brush on top of the hot scones when they come out of the oven, and wait about 15 minutes before diving in!

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Wishing you a relaxing & peaceful Sunday!

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Well, it’s happened…I’ve hopped on the bandwagon with re-invented wheels. I reached the point where I’d drooled over tahini-based recipes long enough! Instagram photo after photo, there it was–tahini this and that, the word itself a sultry insinuation of earthy and intoxicating flavor.

There’s a natural draw toward it, I think, for any peanut butter lover…and when so many in the current baking scene are swapping out the familiar addictive favorite for its exotic cousin, in everything from swirled brownies to cheesecake, curiosity builds until it’s only a matter of time before you’re reaching for tahini at the grocery store.

I need to revisit my opening statement for a minute. Tahini is certainly a well established part of many global cuisines, so when I say “bandwagon with re-invented wheels,” I am exclusively referencing it’s recent popularity in American baking, wherein it’s traded for traditional nut butters.

The globalization effect of Instagram is in full force here, and I personally credit Yotam Ottolenghi, Israeli-British chef, for my own interest in tahini baked goods. No, I haven’t made any of his recipes yet, but am eagerly awaiting his newest cookbook on order! In the meantime I’ve scratched this baking itch by, yep, re-inventing my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe (and turning it into a snickerdoodle-ish situation while at it).

In other news, and I swear I’m not trying to fix what’s not broken, I’ve been experiencing an overwhelming tendency to shirk all-purpose flour whenever possible. I have nothing against it, and can firmly attest that by no means am I turning into a total health nut, willing to compromise taste/texture through using a “better for you” grain or flour. That said…I often and quite genuinely find the healthier options to be more delicious, when made correctly. If there’s a way to make a cookie or muffin taste more intriguing, if there’s a way to render its texture more dynamic, I’m all over it…and it usually comes down to using a more wholesome grain and/or flour.

And now, after that build up, all I did was substitute half whole-wheat flour. A bit anti-climactic but it does make a big difference, I think! I also added cinnamon, and almond extract, and slivered almonds. I find tahini to have a more subtle flavor than peanut butter, and here it lends itself as a perfect backdrop for a splash of almond and spice. As for texture…is the snickerdoodle not THE ideal? Tender/soft interior, with a crispy/crunchy spiced sugar crust? I gave these a generous roll in cardamom/cinnamon sugar before they were good to go. Actually not true, I sprinkled them with sesame seeds for a visual punch as well, and then they were good to go!

I’ll wrap up with a warning: these are really, really addictive.  I don’t typically have the urge to do more than taste test whatever I bake; and pregnant or not, I am positive that these will always be hard for me to leave alone.  They’re well balanced, seem at least somewhat wholesome, and just completely ensnare the senses.  It is impossible to have one last bite.

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Tahini-Almond Snickerdoodles

– Ingredients –

Cookies:

1 cup (228 g) unsalted butter

1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar

1 cup (220 g) packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 t vanilla

1 t almond extract

400 g tahini (if separated, whisk together with a fork until completely smooth)

200 g all-purpose flour

200 g whole-wheat flour

1 t baking soda

1 t sea salt

1 t cinnamon

1 cup slivered almonds

Cardamom-Cinnamon Sugar:

1/2 cup (100 g) sugar

1/2 cup (110 g) brown sugar

1 T cinnamon

1/2 t cardamom

 

– Directions –

Beat butter and sugars together in stand mixer with paddle attachment until mixture is light, soft, and batter-like, about 12-15 minutes on medium/high speed.  Scrape the bowl/paddle and beat for an additional 3-5 minutes, until completely homogenous. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each one. Scrape down the bowl and mix again until completely smooth, then add the vanilla and almond.

Add the tahini, and beat until it’s thoroughly mixed in.  Scrape down sides of bowl and mix again!

Whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Add the slivered almonds and toss to coat.  On low speed, add to the mixing bowl and beat until incorporated.

Scrape the dough into an airtight container or divide into halves and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight (flavors will develop/meld and it’ll be easier to handle!).

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F and line cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper.  Whisk together the sugar, cardamom, and sugar in a small bowl.  Shape dough into rounded tablespoons (size should be just shy of a golf ball) and space 1.5″ apart onto the prepared cookie sheet.  When the whole sheet is full, roll each cookie in the cardamom sugar and then back into its place.

*For best results* place cookie sheet(s) into the refrigerator for five-ish minutes.  This ensures that the cookie dough balls return to the same temperature (recovering from your hot hands shaping and rolling them!), and will bake more evenly. Bake cookies for about 10 minutes before checking on them–when they’re ready, they’ll be lightly browned around the edges, puffed, cracked, and not overly dense/wet in the center.  You can also check by using your index finger and thumb to lightly “squeeze” a cookie; if it seems set and not squishy, and the bottom is golden, they’re ready.  Cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before placing them directly on rack to cool completely!

Note! This dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic or an airtight container and kept frozen for future cravings!

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Happy Saturday; I hope October is treating you well!–

Dessert – Bits & Pieces!

September 22, 2017

Hello!

It’s been a hot minute! Or several, seeing as I skipped the summer.  But, fall is here (at least in Maine) and I’ve got a bit of a spring in my step, which bodes well for new recipes and time to share them!

To start, I suppose I should delve into some news; there is a different type of bun in the oven these days, the best kind of goodness imaginable, a baby girl due 11/15!  So!  With that, my schedule has changed but luckily my tastes have remained the same…for the most part.  At the very first I was fixated on olives (full disclosure–I only wanted them as a conduit for vermouth and vodka…pre-pregnancy knowledge of course! cruel and unusual that my only true craving would turn out to be off-limits).  After this regretfully fleeting and briny infatuation, I’ve settled into an easy and wonderful, familiar and comforting, love affair with healthy fats.  Nuts, nut butters, dairy and avocados.  I’m delighted that all of these things work well in baking, although I’ve yet to add avocado to anything sweet.  I hear that it works but then after reading the zealous accolades for avocado chocolate cake, for example, I’m just like why?  Why make that?  Use zucchini if you must, for goodness sakes.  Avocados are a lonely food to me, they stand deliciously alone.

Moving on! As I mentioned, I have a bit more time these days.  And when I’m invited to dinner, you can assume that I’ll bring dessert and it won’t just be leftovers from the bakery.  Let’s get back to fat.  Namely and more appealingly, almonds, black sesame seeds, caramel, cake and ice cream (…yes, sesame seeds have fat).  I deliberated on the best combination for these components, and arrived at the following: the well-loved brown-butter almond cake,* black sesame ice cream,** Marcona almond/black sesame seed brittle,*** and pears poached in Earl Grey tea.****  Matcha tea is a tried/true tea accompaniment in the world of almond/black sesame, but I think Earl Grey is more earthy, less astringent, and a decidedly better pairing for pears.

Notes on recipes you’ll find in those links: *I subbed 3 T dark rye flour for AP; **I subbed Lyle’s Golden Syrup for corn syrup; ***Minus the coriander; ****Minus the dried fruit!

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I flip-flopped a few times about making the cake base almond or black sesame, over whether the ice cream should be black sesame or Earl Grey, and if the pears should be baked INTO the cake or poached/served over.  The only forgone conclusion was the brittle.  And the caramel sauce made with the Earl Grey poaching liquid, a subconscious inevitability turned last minute action.  In any event, I couldn’t have been happier with the finished plate.  I highly recommend taking a day or afternoon and tackling each of these recipes–to enjoy together or on their own!

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And now, a craving of a different kind; Little Dragon, as usual–

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Meringue!

March 3, 2017

I enjoyed a conversation with a friend of mine today, a newly employed baking assistant, about an assignment for her college English class.  Plato’s Cave came slowly and vaguely back to me and frankly, I’d never found it interesting, and I didn’t understand why it was Plato instead of Shakespeare or even Homer whom we were talking about.  But once we were talking about her course and I disclosed I had been an English major, she was excited to discuss a current paper topic. As was I, until discovering how very dull Plato remains, and how far off the deep end my mental discipline has run.  I even look back at some of my posts from years ago and wonder how I can run a bakery with my brain at half-mast. (chicken or the egg, there?)

I had recently decided that shunning blogging altogether was the best way to avoid the tangential overflow of daily life, the dramatic meandering without arrival at a point. But perhaps this “problem” is simply a matter of structuring energy.  Instead of silently soliloquizing in the shower–accumulating ideas and thoughts that ring true and good but are quickly washed down the drain–, I plan to re-harness and restructure my energy.  The bakery gets a great portion of it, okay all of it, but maybe I’m working harder not smarter.  Maybe if I didn’t put all of my eggs into one basket, if I didn’t put so much pressure on the bakery, then it and I could breathe a little.  Nothing ever suffered from not suffocating, I suppose…

To the point!  (…being that I have one.)  This week I’ve really enjoyed meringue.  It’s literally the icing on the cake, without the work of actually icing a freaking cake.  Once it’s whipped, you just do whatever you want with it.  If you’re feeling craftsy, use a piping bag and a star tip.  If the thought of wrestling with sticky meringue and plastic makes you want to scream, close your eyes and let the spatula work its magic.  Put a torch to any design and before you know it, there’s an endless amount of nooks, crannies, mystery and intrigue to your otherwise basic pie.  And it’s really satisfying.

Last summer I started putting meringue on cake.  It was weird at first, and I was worried about shelf life, whether it would get flat or gross before the cake sold.  But!  Luckily that concern never came to fruition because of, well, the nooks and crannies and mystery and intrigue.  How could you not buy the cake with the meringue?  It looks burnt, does it taste burnt?  It looks marshmallow-y but also crispy.  Is it also crispy?  You have to know.

For now I’ve drawn a few flavor boundaries.  If lemon is involved, meringue is a go.  S’mores related, totally great.  And then recently I’ve matched it with coconut.  I suppose I associate it with spring/summer.

Photos & a recipe: (when’s the last time I did that?)

Meringue

2 cups / 400 g granulated sugar

1 cup egg whites (I’ve routinely found that 7 gives you just that! A good idea to measure though, given varying egg sizes)

Make sure that all bowls, whisks, and measuring spoons are clean, dry, absolutely moisture free.

Whisk sugar and egg whites together in bowl of stand mixer (if using a hand-held mixer, any medium/large sized bowl will do).  Set bowl over a pot of boiling water (make sure the bottom isn’t actually touching the water), and whisk occasionally until mixture is thin and clear.  To test, bring the whisk out of mixture and carefully not to (it’s hot!!) pinch a tine with fingertips.  If the adhering mixture is smooth and easily spread between fingertips, it’s ready.  If it’s still a bit grainy or thick, it’s not ready.

When ready, whisk on medium-high in stand mixer or with hand-held mixer until it holds stiff peaks when whisk is lifted, and it’s voluminous/fluffy (basically like men’s shaving cream).  It will cool significantly, but don’t worry about it being completely cool to use (as long as the texture/volume is fine, it’s good to go, even if it seems a tad warmer than room temperature).

Pipe or spread, and torch zealously and evenly!

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Alternating these two in winter,

Last thoughts, read briefly and copy/pasted/saved from an article a friend shared.  Definitely got my attention–

“How can someone be busy and not accomplish anything? Well, that’s the passion paradox. If the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then passion is a form of mental retardation—deliberately blunting our most critical cognitive functions. The waste is often appall­ing in retrospect; the best years of our life burned out like a pair of spinning tires against the asphalt.

Dogs, god bless them, are passionate. As numerous squir­rels, birds, boxes, blankets, and toys can tell you, they do not accomplish most of what they set out to do. A dog has an advantage in all this: a graciously short short term memory that keeps at bay the creeping sense of futility and impotence.

Reality for us humans, on the other hand, has no reason to be sensitive to the illusions we operate under. Eventually it will intrude.

What humans require in our ascent is purpose and real­ism. Purpose, you could say, is like passion with boundar­ies. Realism is detachment and perspective.”

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October!

October 16, 2016

Oh my gosh!  Shouldn’t I know by now not to start these without a concentrated point?  The stalling first paragraph(s) are always a little awkward aren’t they; I’m sorry.  It’s just that–when I consider what I “want” to do with my free-time, it’s writing.  And then I do a million other things instead, for weeks, until it happens that I can’t so much as shower without delivering an internal soliloquy on everything under the sun, to myself, and my brain is like a baked raisin.  (Have you ever seen a baked raisin?!  Well let me tell you, it’s not pretty.  If you have a raisin-laden scone or cookie or something and there’s an unfortunate lone raisin on the outskirts, that has no dough to protect it, it’ll burn/blow up and basically explode.  Sometimes, as I painstakingly extract these casualties from an otherwise delicious pastry, this makes me want to just eschew raisins altogether forever.   And then other times I think no, I just need to take better care of them.  But how do you manage the whereabouts of raisins in cookies?  Who has time for that?  Why am I even considering this?  Who even likes raisins?  I think I’m okay with them.  But why?)

Well anyway moving on, I think perhaps my simile is clear; this blown up raisin is spewing.

I got married!  I would continue ad nauseam about the whole thing except for that…while I have no trouble being emotionally forthcoming to the point of too much information, for the moment I recognize that Dear Diary isn’t actually my goal here, and that respect of privacy is important.  It’s not that I’m overlooking or withholding my consideration on the whole thing, but instead I’m preserving it.  Isn’t it important, I think, to discuss those thoughts and feelings with the person you’re bonded to, instead of on a blog.

That said!  I will address the wedding process a little bit, which I found to be insane.  It’s always going to be crazy, my wonderful father assured me, or why else would there be so many movies made about it?  Isn’t that true, and isn’t it the best predicament when the best superlatives in existence can’t do a person justice?  I went for wonderful, which I believe to be more sincere than fantastic and lovelier than awesome, less silly than amazing and less generic than the best.  My Dad is perfect.

Getting married is a fairy tale harbored in dreams, and when the realistic light of day shines…the depth of the shadows is incredible.  Not darkness, there’s nothing dark about it.  But the nooks and crannies involved are absurd–how, after you think you’ve found them all and know your whereabouts, you’ve only discovered ten more beckoning in their place.  You close one door by making one decision and immediately, fifteen more open.  It’s a lot to think about aside from the actual marriage.

“Actual marriage.”  What does that mean?  Something unique to every relationship, but there’s no mistaking the universal gravity.  Love is such a largely dissected word, but at the end of the day it remains specifically and personally poignant.  I believe marriage to be the same.  Two dissections musings that resonate with me are as follows.  The first, an exert from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis which was read during our wedding:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

“Quieter love.”

Our second reading, Corinthians 13–cliche perhaps but beautiful nonetheless–asserts what love is and is not.  My favorite o these descriptions is that it is “not inflated.”  I decided to look at the definition for inflate, curious why that word seems so exactly fitting, and was met with the following: 1. to fill with air or gas so that it becomes distended. 2. increase by a large or excessive amount.  And that is why that word is so perfect.  A quiet love is a deep love, not full of hot air nor inflated by noise or show.  Love can and should grow, but you shouldn’t have to endeavor it.

On a more poetic, personal note: E.E. Cummings.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
 
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
 
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

I put it all in bold because there’s no beginning or end to those feelings.  They just are, it just is.

Whew! I may let that poem punctuate the post.  I’m back on the baking schedule after a pre-wedding break, so my sleep clock is adjusting…generally feeling about 3 hours past whatever the clock says. (10 AM is definitely lunchtime, anytime past noon is basically 5 PM, particularly if it’s Guinness cake season, anytime past 8 is (unfortunately) when my mind gets a second wind, even though my body thinks it’s definitely midnight or beyond).

But it feels good.  If there’s one thing I’ve realized, it’s that I’m just grasping what it is I’m doing at Sea Biscuit–and that that’s okay.  Last summer I’d have said I was a hamster and it was my wheel, it was running me.  And now I see that that’s actually not true.  At all.  Instead, if you’ll allow me to draw a dramatic comparison, perhaps I’m more like Atlas, holding the world.  I’m not saying I have the world in my hands.  But I do feel like I’m increasingly adept at managing a greater whole that never stops spinning.  Some days I truly do feel like Atlas, other days I am a burnt raisin.

Photos! Just a few.

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ZZZZZZZZ, XOXOXOXO