Fall Back into Momentum: Part 4 (Mood Boosts)

It was raw and gloomy last week, so I haven’t experienced the ballyhooed morning sunshine boost, but I did practice acceptance of minimum expectations while making progress on the Must Dos.* Exterminator came yesterday. Mammogram appt is on Tuesday. The feral cat feeding area has been winterized. Because somehow we are already tangoing with temps in the 20’s. Today I hope to dig in the hundreds of bulbs I impulsively bought (on sale!) because the promise of spring flowers helps drag me through winter.

firststickysnowwinter2018
Click the pic for the Chicago Weather Center’s alarming graphic.  “A wintry weekend’s on tap, more like Jan & Dec—then a windy cold blast hits later Mon/Tues.” Grrr.

This garden task is an example of another important category for the To Do list:

Mental Health: Which projects, while perhaps not-essential, will buoy your spirits? The sky won’t fall if I don’t get these all into the ground, but it will feel less gray if I do. Another example: For better and worse, my level of cheer is tightly linked to the condition our home. If keeping the TP stocked is part of scraping by, keeping the bathroom clean helps preserve my sanity.  When feeling overwhelmed, picking a few spots to hold to high standards allows me to ignore–for now–other messes, literal and figurative. Manicured nails, bright lipstick, seasonal decorations, and blogging also add a bounce to my step. Although frivolous, they help fend off the blues.

Clear surfaces
If we keep these main surfaces clear, I can screen out other clutter, even when it means shoving the clutter from these surfaces somewhere else, such as the small counter under the kitchen window sill or the not-shown hutch behind the table. I am also ignoring our filthy ceiling fan.

Another big bang for the buck mood booster can be to tackle a small, odious project that will make you feel like a bad ass while improving your quality of life. Or as Marie W. wrote: “Will I feel more miserable in the long run if I don’t do the thing??” Congrats to her for last weekend’s deep clean of the cat box area: “including the gross mat that picks up litter.”

Ideally, mood boosting tasks are relatively manageable, like planting 20 instead of 200 bulbs! But in the spirit of forgiveness, if I don’t get them all in, I am just not going to worry. I can always donate what I don’t get to. The ground isn’t going to freeze super soon, is it? Oh, please no! I am not ready.

too many bulbs
What was I thinking? At least I did pack up all of the Halloween decorations. . .

*And bravo to Dena K for taking care of the rain barrels before the freeze. A big job, indeed!

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Fall back into Momentum: Part 3

guidetosettingclocksback
For sundial, shouldn’t it be move 100 miles or so?

Huzza! The latest sunrise of the year, 7:25am, is behind us. Mornings will be a lot easier this week with day breaking before my son’s alarm instead of while he’s biking to school.

After a long night out dancing, where we turned the clock back to the 80’s, I used my extra hour to sleep in. It’s a cold, wet, standard issue November day, so maybe I’m overselling the idea that shifting daylight back to the morning can give a productivity boost. I keep walking past the bag of laundry guarding the front door. If I don’t leave the house, I can avoid taking it to the basement.

OK, I did leave the house to drop Miguel off at a bday party and was even able to find the rain pants with minimal scrambling. Success! I did walk past the laundry, though. Oh well. It is not a crisis.

Which brings me to the main principle of the “F It!” approach to goals for the next less than (eek!) two months. But I am switching the alliteration:

Minimums: This is what I talked about yesterday. What are the most essential tasks and routines required to grind through the next few weeks? What are the lowest standards you can hold yourself to? Maybe it’s OK to eat mac and cheese more frequently than you shower.  Some green beans on the side and spot cleaning  and congrats, you’re doing just fine. Give yourself credit for taking care of the smallest, must mundane chores. As Clare reminds, you can always write them down after the fact and cross them off  with a flourish. Resupplied *and* changed the toilet paper!

changing the TP1
Pardon the gendered language, but this was the image that best captured the TP changing continuum.

Musts: Ugh. These are the critical non-routine tasks and projects that tend to easily slip off the daily radar either because they are dreaded or require a bit of effort (real or perceived). Inaction might not be creating problems now, but has longer term risks. Or maybe they are just really critical for other reasons.

My list is heavy with this category, but I am forcing myself to focus on the ones that are the most important right now, such as: getting a mammogram, keeping a mood journal*, paying the annual life insurance premiums, calling the exterminator, and checking all the smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in the building.  Gah I am soooooo tempted to add more, but these are the big ones. And they are doable.

Cracked Caulk
The current window situation in my office.

Uh-oh, I need to add one more: caulking the baseboards and windows. While the sky won’t fall if I skip this job yet another year, it would help our heating bill fall. And I so very much hate being cold. And I promised Michael I would do it.** And I even bought a power caulk gun. So. . . this is a must. Ugh.

Oh, and I am also likely starting a new job in January–teaching a foundations reading/writing class at Malcolm X College. Yay! But also yikes, I need to prepare for that too. There’s a training in mid-December and so I’m going to try not to overthink it this month.

This can be an overwhelming category.

In a few days, I’ll write about other kinds of goals ranging from modest to monumental, but for now maybe I’ll hide under the covers with some tea and cower at all the musts do the laundry and maybe even put it away and then triumphantly cross those tasks off the list. Alas, we are out of mac and cheese. Cereal for dinner?

* More on this another day.
**A note about my wonderful husband. He takes on more than his share of domestic duties, especially considering that he works full time and I do not. I don’t want to leave any impressions that I do all the housework. And he cooks more than I do. Thank you, Michael!

Fall Back into Momentum: Part 2

muddyshoesPart of my mental health profile is an enduring belief that I am an epic failure, terrible person, and overall waste of carbon. I realize this is not a fair or useful way to look at things. It’s a hard mantra to shake, but I am trying.

I have long brandished my irreducible to do lists as evidence of my dismal performance as a life form. So many unmet goals. So many small tasks that take forever. Why has “remove muddy running shoes from the back steps” been on the agenda for almost a month? Why did this even make it onto a list?? Cleaning them will take less than two minutes. I could probably just run in them a few times and let fresh air and friction shake off the dust.

I know I am not alone. Recently I read a piece about “impossible tasks,” those seemingly small things that are challenging to manage, especially when you struggle with depression. It was helpful to see examples of people’s small things: paying the bills, feeding the cats (yikes, I haven’t fed the cats yet today–BRB), taking a shower. Sometimes just scraping by feels like climbing a mountain.

Before we embark on any goal setting for the next seven weeks, I think it’s important to honor the effort it requires just to get out of bed each day. More on this at the end.

clean clothes
Putting the laundry away is one of my many inexplicable impossible tasks.

In Celebration of Long Lists

I’ve decided that all my goals and to dos are not evidence of failure but rather creativity, ambition, and the good fortune of a rich and interesting life. Take that, Eeyore mindset.

The other night I could not sleep. Sometimes my body just craves an all nighter. Maybe it’s a bi-polar feature (feature is more pleasant than disorder), but I enjoy the  clarity that settles in around 3am and tend to have plenty of energy the next day.

I used the time to scoop up all the reminders scattered around the house, flip through my quasi-bullet journal (more on that another day), and joyously brainstorm all kinds of things I need and want to do in the short, medium, and long term. I used a table with columns for task, time, scope, category, importance, and “do stat??” But I mostly focused on dumping out the tasks, categorizing them (such as home, garden, career, civic engagement), and then using the categories to squeeze out more ideas. Entries range from the frivolous (decorate for the holidays) to the formidable (organize the basement, which includes finding homes for all the holiday decorations). From modest (stop gaining weight) to momentous (run a sub-two hour half marathon).

Early Halloween
Seasonal decorating gives me, and apparently Rusty, great joy. . .packing it up, not so much.

I’m at about over 150 items and could add 20 more right now, but I need to hack at some garden tasks (on the list!) because it looks like the weather is only getting worse. Alas, autumn, we hardly new ye.

A few months ago, I was very depressed. It was bad. I was utterly hopeless. I’m still struggling and muddling and might always.  But I am doing a little better and am sort of excited about having hundreds of things to do and accepting that I don’t have to do them all right now and, in fact, could probably get by with doing very few of them.

Which cycles back to not setting ourselves up for emotional evisceration about all that we do not do. Before you make any huge lists, give yourself some credit for persisting, acknowledge that it takes effort to get to work, keep kids and critters safe and healthy, and do the laundry. Extra credit for putting it away before doing the next load.

So I invite you to bloat up your list if you promise to let it lead more to optimism than feeling overwhelmed. Tomorrow I’ll share how I am picking a few, only a few, modest, medium, ambitious, and must-do items before the solstice.

Fall Back into Momentum: Part 1

steep solstice
Over-dramatization of the harrowing descent into darkness between Chicago’s summer and winter solstices.

When it comes to roller coasters, I am the first to volunteer to stay below and guard the backpacks. I especially fear the lurching, juddering, teetering, oxygen grasping moment before gravity and leaps of faith take over.

But when it comes to Chicago’s seasonal rides, there is one steep crest I look forward to: the end of Daylight Saving Time. This Sunday, we scoop up some morning sunshine to ease the final plunge to the winter solstice. Many folks dread the early nights, but if we are going to ration daylight, I’d rather have it for breakfast. My mood depends on it.

Slide into Solstice Challenge
The scheduling sleight of (clock) hand serves as a wake up call, prompting fervent action on my ever backlogged and bloated to do list before midwinter dormancy takes hold.  As a yoga teacher once explained, our hemisphere’s new year is a terrible time to start ambitious plans. (Getting back into yoga is always on my resolution list. Hasn’t happened this year–yet!) However, there’s something to be said for hitting the holidays with momentum or at least minimal self-flagellation.

Will you join me in using the temporary reprieve from sleepy mornings to tackle some “F it!” goals over the next 2 months? These are not your B-suite SMART ambitions. I’m talking about a tiered approach that gives credit for basic functioning and allows for failure and forgiveness. That balances fun and frivolity with the frustrating and formidable. That perhaps leans on friends and family more than fierce, focused individuality. And that is understanding of those of us who can be frantic procrastinators. There’s nothing like some sunshine and a deadline to force me into high gear. I’ll lay out the plan in my next blog post, which, er, I hope to get to before Sunday.

Chicagodaylight
A less sensationalized representation of Chicago’s annual shifts in daylight taken from gaisma.com which shows how the sun shines around the word.

Snow and Steady

View from the sunroom–today and two years ago.

The book of face may be undermining democracy, but it’s still great for cat pictures and capturing fleeting gestalts*, such as today’s breaking point with the weather. After a few weeks of near silence about the spring that has yet to arrive, my feed exploded with snowy photos and exasperation and then exasperation about snowy photos. Yeah, yeah, we live in Chicago. This happens. In fact, FB also reminded that we were bumming about snow on this date in 2016.

The persistent chill has had some benefits. For heat hungry folks like me, the taste of warm March days sharpens the bitterness of April frosts. Even rugged spring perennials can suffer from the weather roller-coaster. Last year, my hellebores were budding in early March. Although cold hardy (called a Lenten Rose for a reason), they are still vulnerable to hard freezes. Recalling the previous year’s late season damage, I sheltered them during a dive into the teens March 11-12. A week later, they were in full bloom.

This year, our garden is moving slowly and that’s OK. Due to some changes in my personal life, I’m moving slowly, too. These pics, including the tentative hellebore on the left, are from the last few days. They’ll be fine when the snow melts, just like we will. Now, let’s play ball! Oh wait, the Cubs home opener was pushed to tomorrow. Drat.

*Not sure if I am using gestalt correctly, and maybe it’s a little pretentious, but I’ve always liked the way it sounds. It’s one of those words which have a sound? heft? shape? that matches their meaning or mood. I don’t mean in an onomatopoeia way. More of an overall form/content alignment. I am sure there is a word for this.

Winter Sowing: Finding Containers

My gardening season begins in the alleys, scavenging for milk jugs. They become the mini-greenhouses for winter sowing: aka plant them and mostly forget about them until it’s time to transplant.*

imag0184I had to walk my bike towards the end of this harvest. Dexter is impressed! Also, in contradiction of everything below, I couldn’t pass up the giant cake platter.

You can start seeds in pretty much any food grade item that holds soil and lets in light—even ziplock bags. Last year, I experimented with 2-liter soda bottles, cake boxes, strawberry clam-shells, commercial vats of cooking oil. . .my yard was a riot of shapes and colors.

That’s one of the reasons I am now sticking with lightweight, translucent, plastic, gallon (LTPG**) containers. The consistency is soothing to my eyes. They sit quietly, unassuming, not competing with spring’s first acts. I also find they are the easiest for me to set up and manage.imag0065That large container of kale. . .so tempting for planting kale seeds. Would not even need to relabel. But no! I resisted.

Labeling: This is always a hot topic on the winter sowing facebook page. You need something that will not fade over time. I’ve settled on grease pencils. Since I bought a pack of 10, I am committed for the long haul. However, they work best on slightly textured, slightly colored surfaces. They do not grip clear plastic well, and whatever dim marks manage to stick are hard to read.

imag0179These cheap, bought in bulk, grease pencils are great for labeling, but I have to hack at the paper. Neighbors, let me know if you want a few so I can justify trying another brand.

Cutting: The thin walls yield easily to my crude methods for prepping the jugs. I just bore the bottom corners with scissors, and pinch a corner sidewall to start a cut. Hard slippery plastic repels scissors. But since I tend to be too impatient to dig up a better tool, I stab and hack away. This not only takes too long, it makes me worried that I am going to need to dig up the band aids.

Soil: The smaller containers dry out more quickly and the larger ones use more soil than necessary. When they are the same style, they tend to need water at the same time, not just because the amount of soil tends to be the same, but so does the surface area and light level.

imag0178When the widgets are the same, the assembly line runs more smoothly, or something like that.

When I started looking for jugs last month, I vowed to only have eyes for LTPGs. In fact, I was going to avoid LTPG’s with the sidewall divets common to milk jugs. Even better, why not avoid milk jugs in general, since they reach peek reek so quickly? (I wonder why folks tend to keep caps on the empties.)

Within the first few blocks, I realized I could not build my garden on gallons of distilled baby water and orange drink. The pickings were slim for milk jugs as well. I think it is partly related to gentrification, and partly because the recycling trucks seem to be on the prowl more frequently.imag0112

Divets make it harder to tape the jugs. More on that later. Also–gross! Do you see the dried milk in the handle? This one required some vigorous shaking and rinsing.

So, I am back to grabbing whatever LTPG’s I can find. My bike can easily carry six, and I enjoy straining capacity. Carrying by hand used to be hard, until I picked up this tip from another winter sower: use string or a broom handle. For unplanned alley jaunts, I just look for a pole or a stick. This also helps me root around at the bottom of bins. . .because I can’t afford to pass any containers up!

imag0205Bent the end of this strip of metal I found near the garbage, and went fishing!

It ends up working out since small batches are easier to manage anyway. There’s a limit to how many milk jugs I can rinse out at once, especially when they are bulging with fumes!

* (I already wrote a bit about how to set the containers up. Instructions are also at the milk jug page of wintersown.org.)
**I couldn’t think of a clever acronym. LTPG sounds kind of like Lit Pig. Pigs like garbage. Gardening lights me up. So, LTPG it is!

PS: Some of the Dwarf Siberian kale, planted 2/8,  is already popping.
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Alley Findings

The recycling bins in our alley used to overflow with empty gallons of milk, water, and juice–perfect containers for starting plants. Yesterday’s four block search yielded only four, all from one house. Instead, I found plenty of cans of La Croix and craft beer–indicator species of a gentrifying (ied!) neighborhood.

The original intent of this post was to offer tips on what to look for in a winter sowing container. But sometimes we find more than we expected when lifting a lid. The stats tell us that families are being displaced from Logan Square. Longtime Latino residents are leaving, and white folks are moving in or maybe it’s more accurate to say it the other way around. The alleys show the changes. We’ve gone from distilled water for babies to fancy soda water for people who like to say pamplemousse.

It’s a serious, heart aching, complex issue, and my family is part of the tangled web.

Through his work at Bickerdike, one of Chicago’s strongest community development corporations, Michael has helped preserve and construct scores of affordable housing units within blocks of our home. We can see the solar panels from one of his award-winning projects from our kitchen window.

vivazapata.jpg

Peer into our kitchen window (and recycling bin), however, and you will see another part of the story. We took an affordable unit off the market when we duplexed the 1st and 2nd floors of our 3-flat. We strive to keep the 3rd floor rent stable and below the booming market rates, but our tenants have tended to be single people without children. Even if all have a low income, affordability looks different to three roommates pooling rent than a family with three children.

This is not guilty hand-wringing. Gentrification is neither 100% bad, nor 100% good.There are so many variables and I’m being simplistic and broadbrushing. For example, I am sure white folks aren’t the only ones buying La Croix at Armitage Produce. For more nuanced and action-forward information, check out the Logan Square Neighborhood Association which, like Bickerdike, does terrific housing and education work with the goal of preserving the ethnic and economic diversity of Logan Square.

Back to the alley: During a recent hunt, I saw a grizzled man with a granny cart rifling through our recycling. “Looking for cans. . . ” he said, somewhat sheepishly. I always feel a little awkward too, when I’m caught looking in someone’s garbage. I walked to my neighbor’s bin, turned around, and smiled conspiratorially: “I’m looking for plastic jugs to start seeds.” He grinned back. “I love the plants.”

Garbage to garden. It’s a small, simple act that brings joy to me and the neighbors and  energizes me to take on harder, more complicated work related to the neighborhood. Dirty hands keep the sleeves rolled up!

imag0038Guilty as charged. Lots of cans in our bin for him to take.

The Sort of Right Stuff

Today I did some unplanned rage gardening.

Sometimes our washing machine decides a load is “too heavy” or “unbalanced” and shuts down in mid-cycle, after half the clothes are soaked. Picture young child sitting down at a corner two blocks from home and simply refusing to go any farther.

For some reason, this glitch (the washing machine one) only happens to me, which is good, because I am the only one in the building who knows the convoluted, contorted, coddling steps for fixing it. This afternoon, a 5 minute trip to the basement to shovel in load #5 turned into a 90 minute fit of winter sowing while I babysat the washing machine’s efforts to chew through load #4 in three separate dainty cycles.

dampbasementThe bad news: I had to drain the washing machine a few times today and our basement drain isn’t at the lowest point. The good news: I bought soil last fall, just for a day like today.

The basement is a mess, a dis-ah-ster as #45 might say. But I am mighty grateful to have it. And if I can’t find what I need in the chaos, something else will do.

I had two stockpiled cranberry juice bottles plus the 4 milk jugs from two days ago. I rinsed those out yesterday. They still kind of stank, but at least not  in a knee buckling way (foreshadowing of the pros and cons of milk jugs). While waiting to see if load 3a would work, I started prepping them for planting.

Drainage: I learned to winter sow from Karen. She heats a fork on a stove burner and gently presses it a few times on the bottom of the jugs, sort of like poking a pie crust. It’s kind of gentle and brutal at the same time. Since I work in the basement (sans burner), I use a razor blade to make little slits. I couldn’t find a razor blade today and I wasn’t going upstairs to look (can’t leave the washer untended), so I just stabbed the bottom corners with scissors. Not the safest choice, but very satisfying.

Cutting the jugs in half: I used to be meticulous about cutting the jugs, measuring the height of the cut, tracing a line to follow. Now I just eyeball it. Winter sowing is forgiving. Once the jugs were flopping open, I rinsed them again. The machine clicked off, ready for load 3b. Next up: adding soil.

carefulcutting)wintersowing.jpgFile photo from more fastidious days. Saving thoughts on what works and when for winter sowing for later.

Adding soil: Fortunately, I stockpiled big bags of potting soil last fall.I dragged one over to the sink and ripped it open. It was suspiciously damp, despite having been untouched since October and being in the high land area of the basement. Can soil go bad? Maybe, but the smell was not knee buckling so I carried on.

Filled the bottom half of each jug about 2/3rds high with soil. Found some old dish pans. Put them in the utility sink (so grateful for a double utility sink!) Filled them with about 2 inches of water. Placed jugs in pans to dampen the soil from the bottom up. Also a good test of the hack job I did on drainage.

imag7516Another file photo, showing the “watering from the bottom” method.

10 mins left on the cycle. Do I dare keep going? Next step is seeds. But my seeds are a jumbled mess outdoors. But wait! They are still in their little bags, categorized by type: kales, lettuces, spinaches, tomatoes, herbs, flowers, and crap that will never thrive  (looking at you carrots, supposedly one of the easiest veges to grow).

What’s the easiest, most forgiving, cold hearty thing I can start? Kale! Also, so conforming to stereotype!

Adding seeds: Eureka moment. I decide to label the containers before adding seeds and to label them upside down, bird’s eye view. Grabbed a grease pencil (they were stashed with the seeds. . . maybe I am more organized than I think), and declared my intention on top of the milk jugs. But grease pencils don’t work well on smooth, clear plastic, so I didn’t label the other two (foreshadowing of pro and cons of hard, clear, smooth plastic).

The machine clicked off, ready for load 3c. Do I keep going? I only meant to be down here for 5 minutes. But my hands are already dirty so. . .

Sprinkle the Lacinato kale from Bakers Creek in the aptly labeled container, which I have moved to a lunch tray on the washer (another random basement find). Massage the seeds into the soil a bit. Sprinkle some more soil  on top. Hack a gentle watering can by poking a few holes in a plastic cup with a nail. Sprinkle some water on top. Find a warped roll of pink dollar store “duct tape.” Tape container shut, which is actually the most annoying part of winter sowing, esp when using milk jugs which have strange circular divots on the sides. A story for another day.

imag0079

Repeat with the Lacinato kale from Botanical Interests, the Dwarf Siberian Kale, and Red Winter Kale. Plant calendula in one of the clear bottles, and a zinnia on the other. Label with a black sharpie, knowing it might fade in the sun. (I’ll remember, right?)

Click, load 3b is done. Place the jugs back in the dish pans of standing water for a last soak. Move the laundry along.

They are all now nestled along the fence outside. All laundry frustration is long gone.

Never too Early to Garden (zone 5)

It was not night this morning at 7am. Not only had the sun started rising, we could actually see and feel it. (Been lots of cloud cover lately. Reflecting the current political weather? Naw, we all know human actions don’t influence climate.)

When Michael noted the trend towards earlier daybreak, I snapped back, “Yeah, until Daylight Saving Time plunges us back into dark mornings.”*

I am at peak grumpiness this time of the year. The chill has settled into my bones, and the short days shorten my fuse. I know I am not alone.imag0041Mystery bulb, 02/06/2017. Go, go, go, little one. If you can make it, so can we!

My solution is simple: run, write, and garden. Overcoming inertia is not simple. But after 4 days of wearing my running clothes, I finally hit the road yesterday. And there is enough pop left in my brain today to write. . . and start gardening!

I’ve never had the patience or consistency to start plants indoors. Checking the water every day, changing pots, exposing the pampered seedlings to the elements little by little. . .so many opportunities for total system failure. With the exception of tossing out lettuce seeds in March and hoping for the best, gardening season didn’t really start for me until after Mother’s Day, with my wallet open for hardy transplants.

imag0044I didn’t organize or bring in my seeds last fall. Oops? Or–they are already winterized!

A few years ago, Karen introduced me to Winter Sowing. You plant seeds in jugs, place them outside, ignore, and then rejoice a few months later at the abundance of transplant- ready seedlings. You can keep your hands in the dirt pretty much all winter long. Ok, it’s a little more complicated than that, but not much. I’ve been meaning to document this process for my friends, since I talk it up so much. And because writing and gardening are 2 of my keys to beating the winter blues. . . here we go. I hope some of you will join me. I’ve got lots of seeds to share (though no guarantee they will take, see above).

Step One: Find Containers

Oops, this post was going to be about dumpster diving for containers, but then I started preambling, so that’s next. In the meantime, here is the site that started it all: wintersown.org

*March 12, so turns out we still have a few weeks.

PSA on Pumpkin Pie

imag9688.jpg

Back in the day, before Miguel, before owning a building, before marriage, I had a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated. Those were the days of much entertaining in the guise of (non)planning meetings for Critical Mass in the little coach house on Paulina. Everything I made from that magazine turned out perfect (except when I left the sugar out of the cheesecake, which Gareth charitably reframed as an appetizer), and I loved its lengthy articles disguised as recipes and its focus on science and process.

In the mid-90’s, I made a pie from this boldly named recipe: The Only Pumpkin Pie Recipe You’ll Ever Need.* It Was Awesome. And awesomely a PITA to make. But it remained a staple until my baking attention span shrunk to the scope of instructions on the Libby pumpkin can label, i.e., after home ownership and kiddo.

imag9679.jpg
Oops, didn’t mean to put allspice in pic. Supposed to be cloves. Immersion blender is on top of pan of filling. Cuisinart and icy booze are for making the crust.

 I recall my trepidation when I bravely decided to try a different recipe. It felt like a betrayal. I already had the Only Pumpkin Pie Recipe I’d Ever Need. But Libby’s short paragraph won out over Cook’s two page, 8 point font treatise.  However, I did remember two key tips from those halcyon baking days:

  • When using canned pumpkin (oh, the horror!), cook it on low heat for a bit. This supposedly releases any lingering notes of whatever funk cans impart.
  • Blend the pie mixture to smooth out any fibrousness.
  • I also upped the spices and added nutmeg, just because.

The pie was awesome, and awesomely easy!

So, here are my modifications to “Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe”

  • Mix pumpkin goop, evaporated milk, sugar, and spices in a pan and cook over low heat for a while.
  • Use an immersion blender to make it silky smooth. Mix in eggs.
  • Bonus tip: Let pan sit for a bit so the bubbles evaporate and/or lift the pot an inch and drop it on the counter a few times. Basically, whack out those air bubbles. Pour mixture into crust carefully to avoid adding more air pockets. Repeat dropping procedure if that’s the kind of thing you are into. (I find it strangely satisfying.) This also works well if you like
  • Proceed per Libby’s cooking instructions.

*Cook’s doesn’t give this recipe away for free, but I did find it faithfully recorded in this blog post, which is also a rumination on Team Libby and Team Cook’s. http://www.thedeliciouslife.com/pumpkin-pie-recipe-cooks-illustrated/

**Did you know standard immersion blenders also fit into the mouths of mason jars? Great for salad dressings and whipping up a little bit of cream. And you never have to transfer hot soup to a blender again!