Making mints and making memories

At Thanksgiving when my daughters were young, they enjoyed making cream cheese after-dinner mints as their contribution to the holiday meal. The recipe for the mints was super simple, super yummy, and a super tradition that makes me smile just thinking about it.

cream cheese dinner mints

A few years ago, when my eldest grandson, Bubby, was two years old — and my youngest grandson, Mac, was just an announcement emblazoned across his big brother’s T-shirt — Bubby and I made the cream cheese mints together.

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Back when pie was P.I.E.

One of my favorite times of the year is here: It's pie season!

pie buffet

The weeks surrounding Thanksgiving are when pies take center stage. Christmas time is for cookies; Thanksgiving time is for pies. The planning for them. The baking of them. The eating of them. This is when the traditional Thanksgiving favorites top dessert menus.

I'm talking pumpkin pies, of course, but apple pies, pecan pies, sweet potato pies and mincemeat pies, too. Though I admit I've never tried the last three on the list, as traditional Thanksgiving pies at my place are pumpkin, cherry and chocolate cream. (Pecans, sweet potatoes and mincemeat aren't something I have a hankering for any time of the year, in pies or otherwise.)

Then there are the fancy-pants kinds of Thanksgiving pies seen on magazine covers and Pinterest boards, the pies I hope to one day bake, hope to one day taste. Caramel apple pie. Pumpkin ice cream pie. Peanut butter pie. Strawberry-raspberry pie and cranberry pies of all sorts, too.

I love pie.

But Thanksgiving time is the only time I make pie, the only time I eat pie.

That wasn't always the case.

For a brief period of time when my daughters still lived at home, I proposed pie as our all-time — meaning All. The. Time — dessert of choice. Not for dessert though, but for breakfast. On Saturdays. Saturdays far removed from Thanksgiving.

For several months, I offered my then-teenage girls (and my husband, too) pie on Saturday mornings. A time or two I baked a pie, but more often than not it was a perfect pastry picked up from the nearest Village Inn or Perkins, those 24/7 restaurants featuring display cases filled with full-sized pies of the most luscious sorts. Our favorite was the silky smooth French Silk topped with rich, thick, real whipped cream and chunky chocolate shavings. Runner up? A cookies and cream concoction that was to die for, at least for those who'd die for more than their share of Oreo cookies.

On very ordinary Saturdays, I'd set out on the kitchen counter the perfect pie for the family to serve themselves a piece as they woke on Saturday mornings. Alongside the delectable pie and the dessert plates on which pieces were to be placed, I set a note card on which I'd written the following:

May you always have P.I.E.
Peace, Inspiration and Enthusiasm

Those three things — peace, inspiration and enthusiasm — were what I considered essential ingredients for a fullfilled life. I wanted fulfilling lives for my girls. I wanted them to always have peace, always find inspiration, always be enthusiastic about their world and their place in it.

I wanted them to always have P.I.E.

I thought pie was the perfect way to serve up regular reminders to pursue exactly those things.

My pie-serving quest took place during my oldest daughter's senior year of high school. When the opportunity arose for parents to purchase ad space in the yearbook, space in which they could publish a farewell to their graduating children, I bought space, noted a few niceties for Brianna from Mom and Dad, and ended it with "And remember to always have P.I.E."

I wanted Brianna, as well as Megan and Andrea, to place firmly in their hearts and minds my efforts at impressing upon them the importance of P.I.E.... and pie. I wanted those pie-serving Saturdays to be added to their lists of Cool Things Mom Used to Do and become cool things they would one day do with their own children. I wanted them to always remember to have P.I.E. and to always remember Mom's serving up of such slices of wisdom.

That didn't happen.

I asked one of my daughters not long ago if she remembered all the pie we used to eat. My question sparked not even the slightest glimmer of remembrance. More recently, when the proliferation of pie pins on Pinterest reminded me of our P.I.E. eating days and I considered writing a post such as this, I asked Jim if he remembered those pies I hoped had meant so much to my family. He didn't.

pumpkin pie

Sometimes our attempts at making an impression on our children, on our families, fail. My earnest efforts at making P.I.E. an important part of our Saturdays and each and every day to come were one such failure. It was good at the time. No, it was delicious at the time. But, as is the case with all things related to growing babies into adults, that time didn't last. Our prime pie season, for reasons of which I'm not quite sure, lasted a shorter period than most other seasons of childrearing.

No matter, though. The return of pie season brings with it my hope that peace, inspiration and enthusiasm abound in the hearts and lives of my daughters — even without me foisting upon them oversized servings of French Silk Pie.

And despite being unable to share oversized servings of French Silk Pie with you, my friends, I hope that during this Thanksgiving season and beyond, you, too, will remember to always have pie. Not only the pie that satisfies your stomach, but the P.I.E. that satisfies your soul, too.

Photos: Top photo from and altered by me. Pumpkin pie photo mine (click the pie for recipe).

Today's question:

What are your favorite kinds of pie?

Celebrating no celebrations

no-celebration celebration

For my oldest daughter's first birthday, I went all out. I recruited my mom to make a fancy birthday cake with adorable clowns o' frosting a la the Wilton Cake Decorating Cookbook, invited everyone with even the slightest interest in my daughter, packed our tiny apartment with well wishers and gifts galore.

It was the very best birthday party ever.

Until the next year, that is. And until the next child, too — two more of which arrived in rapid succession. Followed by two more first birthdays in equally rapid succession.

With that very first first birthday party for my very first daughter more than 31 years ago, I had set a precedent: Birthday parties in my house would be a big deal. Not expensive, for money was tight as could be considering we were a young family with three children birthed in a three-year span. But the birthday parties would certainly be festive. Each and every time.

Birthdays for my daughters were celebrated at home — no parties at pizza places, skating spaces or swimming pools. Each party had a specific theme chosen by the honoree, with homemade cakes, homemade favors for guests to bring home, homemade fun packaged in such a manner my daughters (hopefully) never realized their special days were celebrated at home because we couldn't afford the party packages offered by the fancy-schmancy peddlers of commercialized fun.

Fun as they were for the birthday girls and guests, that homemade packaging was exhausting for Mom. That would be me — the family party planner bound and determined to make memorable birthday moments for my daughters, come hell or high water, heaven help us all.

One birthday season when I was knee-deep in pre-party prep and freak-out fare — at this point I can no longer recall whose birthday or what theme — my own mom, in hopes of assuaging my stress, advised me, "You don't have to make every single birthday special, Lisa."

I disagreed vehemently... but silently, as I had too much to do, no time to argue my point. But, yes, I did have to make every single birthday special. Because there are so very few that parents get to celebrate with a child. Sixteen or so, if we're lucky, if friends don't win out over family sooner than that.

So I did my best to make birthday celebrations special.

I did my best to make holiday celebrations special, too. Everything from Valentine's Day on through New Year's Day featured special traditions and rituals, special food, special decorations and sometimes even special music. As was the case with our birthday celebrations throughout the childrearing years, our holiday celebrations were never expensive but they were festive. And memorable. And the stuff our family was made of.

And they were exhausting for Mom. That would be me, the holiday planner bound and determined to make memorable holiday moments for my daughters, come hell or high water, heaven help us all.

Little did I realize then how very few holidays I'd have to celebrate with my entire clan. I thought that even once the nest emptied, every child-turned-adult would flock home to celebrate the seasons with Mom and Dad, spouses and offspring in tow.

I've since realized how wrong that idea. Thankfully, though, how right it turned out to be that I did do the best I could each and every holiday while my girls lived at home. Because there were so few of those, too.

The big shebangs had their place, their heyday, but now the celebrations are smaller, in scope and in attendance. Celebrations take less work, yet they still require work.

That required work for birthday and holiday celebrations — exhaustive overloads in the past, minor smidgens today —  is one reason fall has long been my favorite time of year. The months of September and October, to be exact. Because during the months of September and October there isn't a single birthday, a single holiday I'm expected to celebrate. Nothing to plan or purchase or poke-my-eye-out-with-a-hot-poker-because-I-need-a-freakin'-break-from-special-celebrations sort of nonsense. None.

See, as much as I love my family and would now indeed poke my eye out to have them around again for family celebrations and to occasionally fill my (occasionally heart achingly) empty nest, I also love down time. Quiet time. Uneventful time. Time such as September 1 through October 30. Time with no celebrations. No celebrations is, for me, reason enough to celebrate.

True to my character, my past, my family-party-planning-personality, of course, I plan to make that celebration of no celebrations as absolutely special and memorable as possible.

By doing ab-so-lute-ly nothing.*

Happy No-Celebration season to you and yours! May it be everything you hoped it would be. And everything you hoped it would not be, too.

*Well, nothing related to celebrations, that is. The need for speed in securing income remains.

Today's question:

When is the biggest span of time with no birthdays/holidays/celebrations in your family?