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.
What a nice storytelling, you made my afternoon much more pleasant!
Oh beautiful. Just beautiful. My eyes are prickling with tears. Thank you for this (loving and kind) reprimand that we should all strive for much more than just surviving these days of motherhood + marriage, but that we should purposely make an effort to connect with our husbands. I am walking into the kitchen RIGHT NOW to make this apple crisp.
Yes. Just, YES.
How many years have you been married A? it seems like you got wise quicker than me!
We had been surviving for a number of years, more than I care to admit, but what kept me/us going was that I was always complaining. I know that may sound strange, but I always believed that we deserved more and were capable of more, of love, of passion, of laughter, fun and friendship. After our second daughter was born and I had PND it did become simply surviving and we both lost sight of everything else.
I am not a self help book kind of girl, but I read all sorts of books and felt I was trying everything but it didn’t help. The strangest thing put things back into perspective for me – I was made redundant from my job. After 8 years of working 2 days a week I was home full time and we’ve never been happier. I never thought that life was that stressful, but I think it was just one more thing I was surviving and stopping me from focussing on what was most important to me.
You’re right, in all you say about marriage and relationships. The one thing I would say is that even if you marriage/relationship has fallen by the wayside, even if you feel disappointed, so long as you still WANT more, feel you DESERVE and DESIRE more, then you can always turn things around.
We laugh more now, we look at each other and can remember the spontaneity of our earlier childfree years, we have time for each other. It was worth waiting for.
The crisp looks great! It’s hard to find balance in life, particularly when kids are involved, but hopefully you’ll be able to figure it out.
Making this apple crisp right now! I can’t wait to see how it is with the almond meal. Thanks for sharing!
I too feel the exact same way at the end of the night, in fact I’m sitting here now on the couch with two children asleep, just thankful that i made it to the end of the day in one piece. And all i can think about is what to prepare for the next day’s events. Instead i’m going to take your advice and snuggle up to the man on the couch! Thank you for the reminder to take time to focus on the relationship that comes first in my life.
It’s busy with three kids under 7, I hear you on that one. I admire your bravery to road trip and can easily see how it would be hard to connect. Glad you made it a priority when you were settled in at home.
D and I (and baby) are penciling in a much-needed little road trip/getaway at the end of the month. I can’t wait!
Aimee – Good for you!
such gorgeous, honest words…
hmm, and i’m thinking, is a “crisp” a “crumble” in my part of the world? (apologies for blatantly offering up my ignorance on this issue)
Leanne – I’m not really sure what the difference is. This one had more crispy bits than crumbly ones so I went with crisp as the title.
One of the things that I love most about coming here is your willingness to be so honest. Sometimes, I think, just getting by is all we can do. Right? I hope that you weren’t too hard on yourself. Even better, I love what came out of it. (And I am completely enamored with that cocktail – but it seems like it’s those magnificent bitters that really make it. )
Kimberley – These bitters are pretty magical. You might just have to come visit to try for yourself.
Perfect post. Truly. Thank you.
The fact you two can communicate like that is beautiful and inspiring. I’m quick to get defensive like you, but all it takes is a little talking to realize it’s not necessary.
So glad you had a wonderful time in Portland!
This is one hell of a great meal to ring in connecting!
What is it with the light this time of year? ITs melancholy slant makes everything, including your apple crisp, look so perfect that I could reach out and touch it!
I totally hear you on the connecting bit – we have just one but still sometimes it seems like we’re running a marathon to get to the end of the day. Note to self – more date nights…
There is so much marriage bashing in the media; it’s very refreshing to read about your wonderful marriage full of respect, love and honesty. I keep coming back for more stories. I also love that crisp in a cast iron pan, beautiful.
Dorie – So true! I’m a happy marriage advocate. 🙂
Your writing really hit home with me this morning. After moving to a new state a few months ago, my husband openly embraced the new environment with open arms. I, on the other hand, went into a semi-depression and have been pretty moody and sullen. Thank you so much for the reminder to cherish my best friend and not to take him for granted. I needed this today. (And, I cannot wait to try that cocktail on our next date night!)
Kimberly – Thanks for your honest comment. I’m humbled that my words were able to help in a small way. Sending thoughts and prayers your way as you continue in this transition. I know it’s a tough one especially when you feel alone in it. Thanks for being here.
What an honest and revealing post. It takes courage to say all of those words out loud, but with that honesty comes the opportunity to change your own marriage, and to encourage others to do the same. This post is so beyond food, yet all about sustenance. Thank you.
i don’t think it was a mistake on your part… but maybe just a learning for future trips to not feel so anxious about planning out the ‘perfect day’ for your family. now that you know you can trust your kiddies to enjoy vacations, you should relax and enjoy them as well. something as simple as that could jumpstart the feelings of connecting with your hubs during the trip. doesn’t necessarily have to be yet another ‘something’ you have to do. does that make any sense.
on a separate note – i’d have to really love someone in order to be willing to share that crisppp.
Even though this post is tinged with traces of wistfulness and regret, it is also one of the most romantic things I have read in a good long time.
Thank you for this post. My gentleman and I have been feeling disconnected recently as well and trying to think of new ways to connect. Unfortunately he doesn’t enjoy cooking, or a cooking date would be lovely.
Diane – My husband doesn’t enjoy cooking either but he likes to eat so I really do all the cooking. He selects music, pours us a drink and puts the kids to bed. It works well for us.
What a wonderful post. It brought a smile and a tear, all at once. You two sound like a smart couple.
It’s funny – I think my husband reads your blog, but I never have before today, when I started poking around the ‘net just looking at blog designs. I clicked here entirely because I was sure he does. Now I’m going to smile a little more as we make pizza tonight – one of our personal reconnection dinners.
Thanks for sharing.
Natasha – I love this image. Thank you.
oh so lovely. your writing felt so personal…I felt like I was in the car 🙂 hugh often thinks just because we are “eating dinner together” it’s a date, and I feel otherwise. I get the connection thing – you guys are a wonderful example. the crumble looks so perfect and i have all of those things.
see you soon! yay!
Sara – It’s so easy to just assume we’ve connected because we spend so much time together since we both work from home. But being in the same room and giving one another undivided attention is very different. It’s intentional and necessary. Thanks for the comment.
awww.. I love a good sensitive man! You are a lucky woman! Not many have a man that want to “connect” in that way! My husband is like that too… Most of the time I tell him to suck it up and move on but then sometimes I give in and let him sit next to me while I watch my girl shows with a big glass of wine 😉 Totally kidding. love date nights and it’s great to see you make time for them too! xo
Lauren – How sweet of you! hahaha.
I really like your writing style, great information, thanks for putting up : D.
This crisp is super yummy. I had pears on hand, so used those instead of apples, and added cinnamon and a bit more nutmeg to the crisp part. I liked that the recipe only uses a 1/4 cup of sugar, it was the perfect amount and allowed the flavors of the ingredients to stand out.
I think the great lesson in marriage is not to let missed opportunities define us. This is such a great post, a reminder to stop and address missed connections with the intent to get back to that good place. It’s living in our strengths, moving forward rather than letting our weakness and regret consume us. The crisp looks very good too! 🙂
The recipes are beautiful, but my comments are more of a personal nature. Yes, we all have to strive to thrive in our relationships, but don’t beat yourself up when it doesn’t happen as you would like. We all get sidetracked in the day to day survival when we have very young children, and it will all come together eventually. Just remember to be kind to yourself, even as you remind yourself to thrive with your husband.
I love these posts. I’m not married, but I’m in a long term relationship and living with my boyfriend for the first time in my life. It takes so much more effort and understanding than I ever imagined, and these posts give me ideas for efforts to stay connected, and also let me know it’s not just us – relationships take work! Thank you!
Real life. Beautiful story, but mainly because it exposed truths and real situations encountered with couples. And the fact that you connected again, which is hard in our face-paced environments.
And beautiful because a good cocktail sets everything at ease. This is a good cocktail!
Though I’m a single girl who lives with a dog instead of a husband and children, the way you wrote this post put me right in your shoes. I so respect your candid way of writing about your ups and downs. And that pear crisp? I wish I had someone to share it with, so pretty.
Gorgeous photography. Even without your writing, which is excellent, your pictures tell a story! Beautiful.
LOVE this post. So full of heart.
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