Classic Apple Pie (1) | Espresso and CreamUpdate: We went in for another scan on Thursday before the long weekend and got some strange news. Things on our ultrasound looked very normal, pretty much a 180-degree change from our scan on Monday. The doctor and the ultrasound tech didn’t know what to make of it all, so I’m chalking it up to God. Sound good? We’ve been told to still expect miscarriage, but that we now have a legit reason to hope. So we’ve been playing a very strange waiting game until Wednesday, and your continued prayers would be much appreciated.

I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July weekend! Joe and I spent a lot of time working on the house, in the yard, and even painted our office, a room that I’ve intentionally left out of the E&C house tour because I’ve disliked it so much. We’re a long way from revealing the final product on the blog, but I’ll be sharing some sneak peaks Instagram as we pull the room together.

A few weeks back I made a pie and I would be lying if I said the crust was anything worth eating. Truth be told, it was horrible. Sometimes pie crust is hard and scary, isn’t it? Well, I was determined to have success the second time around because that first attempt was just haunting me. With a new sense of resolve, I went back the the kitchen to make another pie crust for a classic apple pie. The result was amazing, if I do say so myself. It was flaky and tender and perfect enough to bring over to Joe and his friends, who needed a break from painting a house on a hot day.

Classic Apple Pie (2) | Espresso and CreamI based my pie crust on one of my favorite recipes from Sherry Yard in her fabulous baking book, Desserts by the Yard. Over the years I’ve made great pie crusts and horrible pie crusts. And I think that if I had to recap what makes success versus failure, it would be in the way the liquid is incorporated into the dry ingredients. Sometimes I’m feeling impatient and I dump the water in rather quickly, in two or three additions. The problem with doing this is that the water doesn’t get evenly incorporated into the flour mixture and I end up needing to add more water than the recipe calls for.

But when I’m patient, adding just a drop or two at a time and constantly using a fork to stir the flour mixture as I add water, that’s when I have the most success, when the magic of tender, flaky pie crust happens. So give yourself a few extra minutes to incorporate your liquids into your dry ingredients and you’ll be blessed with the end product.

Classic Apple Pie with Ultra-Flaky Pie Crust
Serves: 12
 
Ingredients
  • PIE CRUST INGREDIENTS (for 2 crust pie)
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup ice water
  • PIE FILLING
  • 6 cups thinly sliced Granny Smith apples (peeled and cored)
  • 6 cups thinly sliced Golden Delicious apples (peeled and cored)
  • 1⅓ cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • TOPPING FOR PIE
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Instructions
  1. To make Pie Crust: In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt until well combined. Break up the shortening into small pieces and add the shortening to the flour mixture. Cut the butter into small pieces. Add the butter to the flour mixture, too. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until the butter and shortening are the size of peas.
  2. Gradually add the ice water (1 spoonful at a time) to the flour mixture, using a fork to mix the water into the flour mixture as you add spoonfuls of water. This is key, slowly adding the water. It ensures that you get the flour mixture evenly hydrated without having to add too much water.
  3. Divide dough into two portions and gently press into rounds. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  4. Roll one of the dough rounds out onto a floured surface to form the bottom crust. Press crust into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate.
  5. In a very large bowl, combine the apples, sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Stir until well combined. Pour mixture into crust-lined pie plate. (There will be a lot of apple mixture since it bakes down and loses volume.)
  6. Roll out second dough round onto floured surface. Top pie filling with second crust. Roll edges of pie crust together to seal. If desired, crimp edges. Cut two to three slits on top of pie crust for steam to escape.
  7. Heat oven to 375F. Place a metal baking sheet under pie plate to catch any excess liquid. Brush top of pie with the milk. Sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake 55 to 65 minutes or until crust is deep golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool at least 1 hour. Cut into slices to serve.

 

photo (23)

First, thank you all so much for your prayers and support. Although things don’t look good, knowing we are being lifted up in prayer by so many people, including friends we’ve never met in person, absolutely humbles me. Sometimes thinking about it brings me to tears and I feel so undeserving of those prayers. Would I respond in kind if I were on the other side? I hope that I do when given the opportunity.

My tendency is to tie things up in a neat little package, to use the right words and put our pain in a box that’s easy to explain and talk about. But infertility and recurrent miscarriage don’t fit into a neat little box; those type of things exhaust you physically and mentally and you find yourself hit like a ton a bricks during everyday moments when you least expect it. I’m weary and absolutely exhausted. I’ve been pregnant three times in the last 12 months, meaning I’ve been pregnant for over 24 weeks total with nothing to show other than pain, exhaustion, a lot of tears and pretty regular medical bills.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to God, asking Him lots of questions I didn’t really expect Him to answer. There has been yelling and wrestling with Him, wanting an explanation as to why in the world this would be part of His plan for our lives. Sometimes, if I’m being totally honest, it’s made me feel abandoned and unloved and questioned whether I’ve done something to anger God unlike all those women with healthy babies.

Of course, in my moments of greater clarity I realize that this isn’t about punishment but about refinement and growth, that we all go through trials at one point or another, and that it’s God’s way of growing us in the deepest of ways. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that it’s okay to question God and ask Him hard questions; it’s okay to be real with our heavenly father.

Although I’m weary, I think it’s so important not to lose perspective or make having children some type of idol in my life. Infertility can so easily become an obsession, an all-consuming game of temperature taking and ovulation strips and two week waiting periods and fear-filled first trimesters. Joe and I have so much. Truly. And sometimes those blessings get overlooked in search of the “next great thing” which, in this case, happens to be a baby.

Is God enough for me? If Joe and I never get the babies that we so desire is God enough? Are His promises and His word still true to me? The answer needs to be yes.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the last few days two people have brought to mind Lamentations 3, yet again. It was the verse I read time and time again after our second miscarriage, and what I have been meditating on this time around, too. So for those of you who are weary like me, who feel exhausted and drained in the deepest of ways, take heart! The Lord our God is a compassionate and loving father and these trials we are going through are not in vain:

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

*Know that if you’re going through something similar and need prayer, please don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail. I’ve found over the past year that it helps when I take the focus away from myself and pray for the needs of others. 

photo(1)I’m posting a picture of me with my cute puppy because, hey, It’s more uplifting than a picture of my hospital bracelet. :)

Those of you who follow me on Instagram have probably already seen my update that it appears I am miscarrying yet another baby. This time, I was tempted to keep our sad news close and quiet, but I’ve been so blessed to share this journey with you all, and it seems wrong to stop sharing now. If I feel certain about one thing, it’s that God has called me to share our journey publicly so others might know they aren’t alone. Today I’m sharing more of the nuts-and-bolts details than the deeper spiritual and emotional side because I know that sometimes during this journey that’s the type of information I’ve sought.

I’ve been silent regarding our journey to baby over the past few months. While I was quiet online, things were moving along behind the scenes. We received all our blood work back and information back regarding the tissue analysis from our baby. Everything came back very normal. Our baby had normal chromosomes, my hormones checked out nicely, I came back negative for any clotting disorders. And while that’s all good news, it’s also incredibly frustrating to feel as if you aren’t any closer to getting answers than you were before all this started.

To be on the safe side, my doctor prescribed me a daily baby aspirin to possibly negate any minor clotting issues that didn’t show up on the tests we ran and gave me progesterone in the second half of every cycle to aid pregnancy. I had been going to weekly acupuncture appointments that helped lower my stress level and seemed to truly help my body recover much quicker this time around. I was back to having normal cycles within six weeks of my surgery, which is amazing! I felt good, healthy, and back to my normal self when I found out we were pregnant our second cycle after my D&C.

This time around, I felt an incredible sense of peace and well-being. I have no idea what to attribute that to, but I had a good feeling about this pregnancy and believed that things would be different. I went to the doctor and had my hormone levels check about a week after getting my first positive pregnancy test. Things looked good and my numbers were looking great, which made my doctor very encouraged and lifted my spirits, too.

But on Sunday afternoon I started to spot, which wasn’t something I had experienced with my other two pregnancies. The doctor on call suggested I go to the ER to check things out, since Joe had a crazy work week and wasn’t going to be able to get away to go with me during the week and we were preparing to leave town for the holiday weekend. After three hours and rounds of tests, the doctors told me that the gestational sac was irregularly shaped and there were a couple other odd-shaped spots they couldn’t identify on the ultrasound. They tossed around words like “potentially not-viable” and “possibility of a molar pregnancy”. Scary, overwhelming words when all we wanted this time around was good news.

At some point, the news was almost so absurd it was laughable. Fewer than 1% of couples experience 3 consecutive miscarriages. I’ve always been a believer in stats and numbers, but now that we’ve managed to fall into that “less than one percent” I’m starting to believe in stats a whole lot less. Or at least that they don’t apply in our case.

We went for a follow-up yesterday morning with our OBGYN and they confirmed the same inconclusive results we were given in the ER. It’s too early to say with 100% certainty that this pregnancy isn’t viable, but it doesn’t look very good. Although my hormones are rising appropriately (making them less inclined to believe it’s a molar pregnancy) there just isn’t enough information to know if there is a chance one way or another.

We were given the choice to have the D&C today or to wait a week and have a follow-up scan next week to see if things progress. Although my logical side wanted to have the surgery today, move forward and put this behind me, a voice kept telling me to let this play out and give it one more week. I’m probably just being overly optimistic, but a few months ago our pastor talked about leaving room in our lives for God to perform miracles. Not that He will do so every time, of course, but that if we get wrapped up in science and numbers all the time, we don’t ever create space or an opportunity for God to do miraculous things.

So we’re waiting, until next Wednesday, and praying for a miracle while also preparing our hearts and minds for the likely outcome, which is surgery Wednesday after our scan. And because I believe in the power of prayer, would you join me in praying? For a miracle, if that be God’s will, or that He would give us a sense of peace and allow us to remain hopeful about our family’s future even if that doesn’t mean that we get to start that family any time soon.

Madison

Sour Cream Cupcakes 1 | Espresso and Cream

Lately I’ve been trying to see my husband’s golf hobby as a blessing in disguise. Sure, he’s gone for a large chunk of each weekend, but that means I have plenty of time to spend on the things I love to do, like blogging, getting together with girlfriends for a walk or coffee, and laying outside in the sunshine while reading magazines.

I think sometimes I’m too quick to underestimate the importance of  having individual interests and hobbies in a marriage. Because I love Joe and love spending time with him, it’s easy to default to spending most of our time together, and while quality time is certainly important, it’s amazing how much richer and fuller our conversations and time together ends up being when we devote time to interests apart from things we do together.

This extra time on the weekends has meant that I have a little better grasp on editorial plans for this little blog and the upcoming holidays. It’s also why you happen to see me posting a real, actual Fourth of July recipe almost an entire week before the actual holiday, which pretty much never happens.

Sour Cream Cupcakes 2 | Espresso and Cream

 

Since I’m not a huge fan of “cute” food, I kept these cupcakes pretty simple with just the slightest nod to the red, white and blue. The real special part about these cupcakes is how great they taste and how easy they are to make. I started with a box of white cake mix, then added all sorts of good stuff to the batter like sour cream, an extra egg, some vanilla and a box of vanilla pudding mix.

The cupcakes are light and airy and totally delicious, especially when topped with a vanilla sour cream frosting. The sour cream adds just the slightest tang to the frosting and prevents it from tasting too sweet. For a frosting lover like myself, that just means you can enjoy extra frosting! If you’re looking for a dessert that is a little more in-your-face Fourth of July, I would suggest topping the cupcakes with a mix of blueberries, raspberries/strawberries and shredded coconut.

4th of July Sour Cream Cupcakes
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 18
 
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CUPCAKES
  • 1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist white cake mix
  • 1 box (3.9 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • FOR THE FROSTING
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 2½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Milk (to thin if necessary)
  • GARNISH
  • Fresh blueberries
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 18 standard-sized muffin tins with paper baking liners in red, white and blue colors, if desired.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all the cake ingredients. Mix 2 minutes on medium speed until well combined and batter is smooth. Divide batter between cupcake liners. Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire cooling rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sour cream and butter until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons milk to thin the frosting as needed.
  4. Frost cooled cupcakes with frosting. Top with fresh blueberries. Store leftover cupcakes in the refrigerator loosely covered with plastic wrap.

 

Top Knot Tutorial | Espresso and Cream

 

The top-knot is one of my absolute favorite hairstyles. I hope so much that it never goes out of style, because once you master the method it’s incredibly easy to do and works great with second (or third) day hair. It’s one of the things I was most excited about when my hair finally started getting longer! Plus, unlike a regular ponytail, it’s really polished looking.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that you need really long hair or really thick hair to do a great top-knot. I have neither and I still think I get pretty good results when I style my hair this way. The trick? Teasing your pony for extra volume and a slightly messy look.

Watch the video below for the full tutorial, then use some of your time this weekend to practice! It may take a little while to master, but I promise the effort is worth it. Oh, and if you do give this method a try, I would love to see you post your photos on Instagram! Make sure to use the hashtag #e&ctopknot so I can check them out.
 

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