>20 Pies in 2018 (and why setting goals is a bad idea)

I made more than 20 pies in about 40 weeks. I didn’t set a goal. I didn’t feel bad when I didn’t have time to bake or blog. I simply enjoyed baking and sharing these beauties, while messing up and learning.

In other decades of my life I have set goals–to train for a half marathon, to plan a new course, to lose weight, to finish a first draft of a novel. Routine and habits help me eat the elephant. But in every case, after days and weeks of making myself do the thing I used to enjoy, I’d hit a time when I just didn’t feel like doing the thing, but I’d kick myself into guilt for not doing it, and then feel bad about myself while I was doing it. In the end I always felt good that the thing got done, the elephant eaten, and all that jazz. There was just no need to make myself feel bad about something I was supposed to enjoy.

So, with this series of pies, I found my way to have a hobby that I love without feeling bad about the time it takes from my obligations. Sharing the pictures, the fun, the mistakes, the mess, and the taste of these pies from SUGAR BUTTER FLOUR was a highlight of my 2018 year. Here are my pies, and if you keep scrolling, I added a set of favorite pictures and bloopers.

When it can’t get any worse, you might as well smile and eat some pie.

I got a new cookbook yesterday as a gift from my daughter. It’s a bread cookbook, so someday soon stop by for a peek at Bread 1.0.


Pie 20.0

Pie 20.0

This is it. The absolute end of my pie blogging. (I think.)

Pie 20.0 is the first pie in my beloved SUGAR BUTTER FLOUR cookbook (so I made it last) and it’s called “Sweet Victory Pie.” I made this cherry delight because of its beautiful lattice crust and to bring to a party where the hostess said not to bring anything. When I’m the hostess and I say that to my guests, I mean it. Other hostesses say don’t bring anything but hope you’ll bring something. Turns out this hostess was in my club and she really didn’t need (or want) me to bring anything. (Remind me next year, ok? ‘Cause I’ll forget.)

The double crust dough was the normal recipe, made ahead and chilled in round disks. If I read ahead I would have seen a square disk would’ve been smarter. Next time.

The filling was just cherries and starch and sugar. I used frozen cherries because it’s December. They look kinda’ like meatballs, don’t they? I had a pot of meatballs and sauce going on the stove. Luckily, I didn’t mix them up. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson from Big Guy Strawberry Pie–I didn’t cook down the fruit and this one came out soupy, too. There’s only one slice left, so my pie eater has not become a connoisseur. Good thing.

I’d never made a lattice crust before. The directions had some laid-back comment about just cutting random widths, straight or curvy, just WTH… or be more precise, depending on your personality. Right. Just chilling in the kitchen. They suggested cutting 8 slices from a 10 inch square, and said the slices should be 1.5 inches wide. Apparently math is hard for laid-back folk: 10 divided by 1.5 will not produce 8 lattice pieces. I got out my tape measure and slide rule and pencil and paper, my pizza cutter and straight edge and log chart, and I measured my little engineer heart out.

I whipped the egg with water and brushed it on. Then I sprinkled on way too much of the expensive sugar. I’m just chill that way.


I baked Pie 20.0 for a very long time. She came out pretty–I did hold her sideways over the sink to drain out a flood of juice. (Another benefit of the open lattice, dear novice bakers. I threw myself on the sword for you again)–and tasted fantastic with coffee.


Pie 19.0-19.2

On Thanksgiving eve I was missing my sisters as I planned to bake Pie 19.0, so we all made the same pie in our distant kitchens! In New York, Pie 19.1 was whipped up. In North Carolina, Pie 19.2 was crafted. In the end, we made very similar pies with slight variations. Like sisters, our pies are clearly related, but not precisely the same–due to differences in experience, mood, “help,” and other life demands.

Pie 19.0 was a banana cream concoction named “Banana Cream Daydream Pie” from page 111 of the SUGAR BUTTER FLOUR cookbook. As noted in a previous post, in my kitchen Pie 19.0 and Pie 18.0 were concocted simultaneously.

The recipe called for a blind baked pie crust, but we all made a vanilla wafer crumb crust instead.


The filling was cooked to yummy thickness on the stove. Yes, we licked the pan.


Toffee bits and sliced bananas got layered on the crumb crust before adding the delicious pudding layer. The filled pie chilled for hours in the fridge before I whipped the cream for the top.


I whipped the topping with my mixer. See the lemon, pastry brush, and the green lemon squeezer beside the banana in the picture? I brushed fresh lemon juice on the banana slices for the top to keep them from browning.


In a kitchen in NY, my sister used a whisk to whip the cream. Somehow she churned butter instead.


Here is Pie 19.0, made by me in SC. I brought this beauty to a Thanksgiving dessert and my neighborhood pie-eaters scarfed it up.


Here is Pie 19.1, made by my sister in NY (the one who made the butter instead of whipped cream…looks like Reddi-wip!) Notice that her countertop is the same as mine!


Here is Pie 19.2 made by my sister in NC. My, such a dainty crust.


Next weekend I’ll make Pie 20.0 for a Christmas party!


My first children’s book is available in time for Christmas!

I LIKE TREES LIKE THESE is full of glorious images and playful verse to delight young readers and old tree-huggers (like you and me).


Published by LMNO Press and available on Amazon.

P.S. If your initials are S.D. or J.M., check your mailbox for your absolutely-hot-off-the-press first-edition-ever copy. It is printing right this minute and on the way!

Hug a tree

I LIKE TREES LIKE THESE is a book from my heart to the hearts of children about the simple beauty and pure necessity of trees.

I’ve been taking pictures of trees for years while this book, inspired by Hope Jahren’s LAB GIRL, percolated in my head. I asked my granddaughter which children’s book I should publish first–the rhyming one or the one about trees–and she didn’t even hesitate. She said, “The tree one, Grammy.”

This is a surprise for Grace and her siblings for Christmas so DO NOT show her this cover. Now you can buy a copy for your own grandchildren! buy a copy here


The beautiful man on the cover is Christopher Dunham, one of the greats among legendary tree huggers. In the spring of this year, Chris left this Earth. Yet the man and his spirit live on in everyone he touched, proving that a life filled with love is the life we should seek. And hugs are durable. And trees are huggable.