We were driving home late Saturday night from Portland, having just finished our week long road trip in Oregon and relished in the quiet as the kidlets slept in the back of the van.
“Did you have fun?” I asked Gabe. Which seems such a simple question and one that I probably should have asked along the way rather than waiting until we were driving home. I sort of feared his response. I had had a great time but it wasn’t until I thought to ask him that I realized I really had no idea how he was going to respond.
“I did.” He said.
“I just don’t feel like we connected at all.” He finished.
Instantly defensiveness flooded through me and I really had no idea why. Perhaps I felt responsible for this trip and everyone’s enjoyment of it.
“Well, what did you expect? We were with three kids for the week. We never had a moment to ourselves.” I responded with a tone that simmered with frustration. If the person I love most in the world was discontent then suddenly my satisfaction was not so.
I had to stop a moment to see the kindness in his comment. It’s not that he didn’t have a great time – he assured me he did – he simply wanted to enjoy it with me. We missed the opportunity to connect and really share the experience together.
My focus was on surviving. This was the first time we had done a trip like this. I had visions of hours of shrills and shrieks in the car with nowhere to run. When that didn’t happen I was relieved. I had no idea how the kids would react to the mostly adult-focused events so when they enjoyed themselves AND we enjoyed ourselves it felt a great triumph.
At the end of the day I sighed a deep breath of relief. We survived the day. Then I went directly into planning the next day trying to make that one a success too.
I didn’t expect this trip to be one where Gabe and I would really connect and grow together. We’d find another time to do that.
This trip isn’t unlike how I’ve come to exist while raising three young kids. Each day, to some extent, feels like a victory when we’ve all made it. The kids are tucked in at the end of the day, the house is finally quiet – a success. Then it’s time to gear up for the next day.
Where will our marriage be with expectations like that? When will I make the time if I’m content with our misconnections. It’s not enough for me just to survive, I want us to thrive. I’ve always thought that and meant it. I can’t go long in our marriage with feeling as if Gabe and I are simply roommates and not teammates. That’s why it was so convicting when I realized that somehow I had become content with just surviving. Somehow I had decided that surviving was a success but in the case of marriage that’s a lie. Well, I suppose one could maintain a marriage by simply surviving but that’s never been enough me. It’s not what we want to model to our children and it’s not what we want for ourselves.
I’m so thankful for a husband to remind me to strive for more. And that he too desires connection. It’s a gift I can easily take for granted.
I can’t fix those misconnections from the trip but I can strive to not make that mistake again.
We gave ourselves a day to settle back into life at home. Then we pushed up our usual date night a couple days not wanting another minute to pass before we made intentional time to connect. We also pushed back our “post-vacation healthy eating plan” as I prepared Cider glazed pork chop using the cider we picked up in Oregon. There were pan-fried potatoes tossed in a bright, seedy mustard and sauteed spinach with plump golden raisins and walnuts.
That was all well and fine but it was the cocktail and dessert that stood out that evening.
Using my newly aquired Pear eau-de vie I made us a Pear sidecar. I proudly dotted the top of our cocktail with my own homemade bitters specifically crafted with this pear brandy in mind. I had made the bitters while in Portland taking a class from Mark Bitterman, which was part of Feast Portland. In class Mark had over 30 infusions available to us to create our own bitters. With prominent flavors of cinnamon, rosemary, juniper the bitters was a perfect match for the pear cocktail. A garnish of fresh rosemary helped to pull out the fragrant bitters.
For dessert a simple crisp was quickly thrown together using a few random ingredients I found in the cupboard. Sort of unintentionally it was made gluten-free with oats, almond meal, chopped hazelnuts and raw sugar. There was quite a bit of butter as it was for dessert after all and Gabe is right – it really is best with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
We shared it straight from the pan it was baked in, which to me is the perfect way to end the meal.
At the end of the date I mourned the missed opportunities for connecting with my husband during our trip but more importantly I celebrated our efforts to not let another day pass without sitting down together and lingering over a nice meal with the purpose of just being together. It’s so easy to make excuses and to put off our relationship but I also know that when we do put forth the effort we are rewarded with deeper intimacy and a thriving relationship that makes these busy and exhausting days so much more joyful. My husband not a mere roommate, he is my teammate, my best friend and my partner in whatever this life holds for us.
Pear Sidecar // Apple Crisp
adapted from oregonlive.com
2 oz Pear eau de vie
1 oz Cointreau
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
Combine the pear eau de vie, Cointreau and lemon juice and shake with ice. Pour into a martini glass or if you’re like us and don’t like to drink out of martini glasses a highball would do just fine. Add a few drops of bitters if desired and garnish with a sprig of rosemary. You can sugar the rim to add a touch more sweetness if you’d like.
I’ve been having great fun playing around with different grains and nut flours lately. This is a result of that. This crisp came together so quickly yet held a earthy, deep flavor that hid the ease of preparation. Feel free to play around with this simple recipe – add different spices, change up the nuts just as long as you agree to eat it straight from the pan with a loved one.
2 lbs apples peeled and roughly sliced
½ cup oats
¾ cup almond meal
¼ cup Turbinado sugar (raw sugar, regular sugar works fine too)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup chopped hazelnuts
5 Tablespoons butter, melted
Place the apples in a baking dish (8” works well here). In a bowl combine the remaining ingredients until well mixed. Add this mixture to the top of the apples and bake in a 375* oven until the top is deep golden and the apple juices are bubbling, about 45 – 60 minutes.
Let cool slightly then serve with vanilla ice cream.