Apple Pie Filling and All That Comes With It

Monday, October 1, 2012


Picture this:

A bushel of fresh-picked apples are waiting to be made into something yummy for fall. They sit on a lovely wide countertop in a charming kitchen filled with sunlight. The kitchen has ample workspace and cheerful colors, and there is an island in the center that is the hub for all activity in this house. Across from the island, I can see a cozy breakfast nook layered with comfy throw pillows and bordered with bright sunny windows that look out over a lovely stretch of green land, the trees at the periphery just starting to turn gold.

It's canning season, and it's time to make apple pie filling and apple pumpkin butter and applesauce and whatever else comes to mind for this bushel of apples. The kitchen is immaculate, clean, wide open, and completely charming.

Once the apples have been processed and are boiling in the hot water bath canner, I take a few small bowls and fill them with leftover apple pie filling and graham crackers and take them to the cozy breakfast nook table where my husband and children have been sitting playing games and enjoying the kitchen smells. It's dessert-time, and we get to reap the benefits of my labor by all digging into the sweet apples and sauce.

Heaven on earth, no?


It's not quite like that. Instead of the sunny, light-filled kitchen with wide, clean countertops and lots of space, I stand in a cluttered little dark kitchen, the sun nearly down and the dark nearly here. I have run out of daylight hours to get these apples finished, and so dinner (a less-than-impressive frozen lasagna) is in the oven at the same time I am peeling and coring apples to get ready for this canning job. The counter-tops are narrow. They are full of paraphernalia from dinnertime needs and also from the necessary emptying of our dining room while the dining room walls are on hold from being stripped of wallpaper. There is barely space to set anything. The floor has bits of crumbs that keep sticking to my bare feet. There is one lone window that looks directly into my neighbor's dining room. Not much of a view. And there's no breakfast nook--- instead, adjacent to the small kitchen is our war zone dining room--- 3/4ths of the walls now stripped to the waist of their striped wallpaper, the bottom halves a forlorn cornflower blue. The furniture is all pulled away from the walls and the resulting piles of Stuff are everywhere--- temporarily displaced from their homes, waiting for the dining room to get finished, painted, reassembled. Many of these stacks of Stuff seem ready to teeter at any moment. The walls are scary in their de-papered state-- many chips of paint peeled off in the process, and one whole wall has crumbling plaster behind the paper. I shudder to think of the work ahead to get these walls to look "normal" again.


Not so heavenly, this cluttered, messy, inconvenient canning project.

And yet---

The house still smells of apple pie. The kids play around my ankles as I prepare the apples and the sauce. Joe, my beloved, is cheerfully manning the apple peeler/slicer/corer and is keeping up with my requested pace to get these apples done. We're both getting spritzed with droplets of apple juice as each apple goes through the mechanism.  He and I are laughing at the things our kids say and do.

When dinner becomes imminent and the apple canning is still not done, Joe willingly takes over the setting of the table and the feeding of the kids so I can keep at the task at hand. From the other room-- that disorganized mess of a dining room-- I hear chatter, laughter, singing, encouragement... And I know they are fine without me as I finish the apple project. All is well.

And there are still those little bowls of apple pie filling dessert. I don't get one--- the gestational diabetes whispers, "You mustn't..." But I sneak a sugared apple slice or two and it is good enough.

And this house isn't MY house. Not the one in my head. The one I dream about. It's a temporary home (if you can call three years in one place "temporary".) And there are many many things I'd change if I could. Many things I wish I had. But.

This is my HOME.

And it is good enough. I'm slowly learning that it does no good to wait until things are "perfect" or things are "right" before proceeding with plans... Because chances are, nothing will ever be PERFECT or RIGHT or exactly how you imagined them to be,... and how much time are we wasting waiting for that?

I want my Septembers to have apple-picking and apple-cooking moments. Would those moments look far better in a dream farmhouse kitchen? (Oh this nook.... aaaa!!) ABSOLUTELY. But does that mean I wait for that kitchen to get going on my wishes? NO WAY.

I will work among the displaced clutter piles and I will scrabble to get dinner done simultaneously and I will let the kids get a little rowdy so I can finish and I will let Lucy eat apple peels off the floor and we will remember this season. It won't be "perfectly lovely".... But it WILL be perfect.



  1. I think I can smell those apples! I would love to know how you made your apple filling! Some of my favorite moments are like the ones you the kitchen with my husband, laughing and talking about the kids!

  2. Emily, that was so beautiful! And, oh, that nook. Wow! It's gorgeous. I love that you walked us through your night of canning. I've got a great Dutch apple pie recipe I'll send you. It'll put great use to those lovely jars of filling. :) Love you.

  3. well said. That plaster wall is SCARY!

  4. Lovely, and of course, well said. When your friend sends you that Dutch ape pie recipe will you send it my way? I've never actually made an apple pie, but this year is my year.

  5. Hi Em,
    I have not called you back, but your call did prompt me to catch up on your blog and I'm so glad I did. You have been a busy mama. I over-schedule October too, every year. It's been much more manageable this year with only one kid at home during the day and Paul basically hardly ever home so many fun family activities have been skipped this year. I'm impressed with all your many projects. There is so much creativity in your brain! Our big move to Oregon is 8 months away but it consumes my thoughts. That, and growing a human are about all I'm good for right now. We'll have to catch up by phone when it is not midnight soon.
    Love ya,


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