Sunday, October 18, 2009

Celebrating, unexpectedly.

And of course these things happen just as you're finally starting to feel settled.

Remember this post? I went on and on about how I had finally reached a point in my life where I felt like I could put away my suitcase, relax into my surroundings, let myself feel home for the first time in years.

Yeah, well. Apparently I forgot to knock wood.

Paul and I came home to our treasured rented house (it has a white picket fence, readers!) and discovered a notice attached to the front door. This all-caps bold-lettered notice informed us the house was in foreclosure, and gave us the date when the house would be sold at public auction. Apparently, our landlord has not paid his mortgage since May.


Shoulda knocked on wood.

This was the first house we lived in as a couple. This was the threshold Paul carried me over on our wedding day! For the last five months, we've imagined soon walking through that same threshold with our newborn baby, welcoming him or her home for the first time.

But, no. Apparently that's not gonna happen. Really shoulda knocked on wood.

So we went through the usual stages of grief: Denial (meaning we basically ignored the letter for a week), Anger (seriously, readers, you should have heard my call to the landlord... hell hath no fury like a pregnant woman scorned), Bargaining (I even played the pregnancy card with the mortgage lender, to try to convince them to let us stay another year), Depression (I cried off-and-on for two days straight, because I am pregnant, and because I felt betrayed, and mostly because I am pregnant).

And then, finally, Acceptance. And acceptance in this particular situation means house hunting.

So that's what I did -- racing from house to house, confused about what we needed and what was important and hoping for some kind of vibe thing to tell me which house was right. And I dragged poor Paul along, barking at him when he pointed out the flaws of the houses, as if noticing there weren't enough bedrooms was somehow a personal attack.

I called on every single house that was available. I followed up, I made appointments, I went to open houses, I drove by before the appointments and open houses to preview it from the outside. I was on a mission, hell-bent to gain control of this situation, driving with purpose from house to house like a mother bird searching for twigs to build her nest.

And, in just over a week, we have our nest.

It's not far from where we live now, within walking distance of my favorite restaurant, which I take as a good sign. It has rooms, and windows, and a roof, and a threshold to carry our baby over. (And I did a background check on the landlord to make sure his credit was in good standing. Seriously, don't mess with a pregnant woman who now understands how to access public information.)

So we are celebrating. Because this unexpected house is actually better than the one we're in now: it's bigger, is better suited for a growing family (and, frankly, because it has a FRIGGIN' POOL, PEOPLE!). We are celebrating because Paul and I can turn a crisis into a blessing in less than a week. Because we are not worried about our future, whatever may come. Because we know we can take it on, all of it.

And I am secretly celebrating because my big, pregnant belly gives me a free pass from lifting any heavy boxes and furniture.

So, as I start filling boxes, getting rid of the things we don't need in this new life, polishing the things we do need, and imagining all of it in its new place in our new home, the short-lived fear and worry and anger and tears are gone, and I feel celebratory.


Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Filling, to be exact.

I made these for Paul, who had told me about the whoopie pies you find more on the east coast than the west. And it might be one of the last things I bake in this house, our first home together. In the coming week, we will be packing, and then out of town for a bit before the move, so there might not be a lot of chances for big baking projects before I pack up this kitchen and settle into the next one.

And if this is the last thing to come out of my oven from this house, it was more than worthy: sweet and savory, the deep pumpkin spice cut in half by the just barely sweet cream cheese center. They were so good that I have a very strong feeling I'll be pulling a batch of them out of my new oven, before too long.

This is a recipe that can turn any house into a home.

We'll be moved in and unpacked just in time for Thanksgiving, which is, I think, a perfect way to celebrate a new home: break in the kitchen and fill our table with food.

(And I'm also celebrating Culinerapy's nomination for Best New Blog for the FoodBuzz Awards! Click here to check out all the wonderful nominated blogs, and cast your vote!)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Adapted from Matt Lewis of Baked bakery

For the whoopie cookies:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
2 cups firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the cream cheese filling:
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and oil until well combined. Add pumpkin puree and whisk until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk until well combined. Sprinkle flour mixture over pumpkin mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.

Using a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism, drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Transfer to oven and bake until cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cookie comes out clean, about 15-17 minutes. Let cool completely on pan.

Make the filling: Sift confectioner' sugar into a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with an electric beater, if that's what you have), beat butter until smooth. Add cream cheese and beat until well combined. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla, beat just until smooth. (Filling can be made up to a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate; let stand at room temperature to soften before using.)

Assemble the whoopie pies: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Transfer filling to a disposable ziplock bag and snip the corner. When cookies have cooled completely, pipe a large dollop of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edge of the cookies. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate cookies at least 30 minutes before serving and up to 3 days.


  1. I am so excited for your new home! I can't wait to see photos. My favorite thing about fall, aside from the pretty colors and sweaters, is PUMPKIN! I can't wait to make these:)

  2. Seeing as I'm Mennonite, whoopie pies are my heritage. I keep seeing these pumpkin whoopie pies, and while they look yummy, I just can't quite bring myself to go to all the trouble of making them, all the while knowing that the end result won't be chocolate. It's a problem that plagues us Mennonites: letting go of the past, letting go of chocolate whoopie pies...

    Congrats on the new house and on speaking your mind to your old landlord---what a rotten thing to have happen.

  3. Congratulations all over again! I hope this nest is comfy, warm, and blessed with happiness.

  4. Whew! That turned out well, although I'm sure it was a stressful week.

    I love how you took lemons...and made whoopie.

    You rock, mama.

  5. Whoopie, indeed! I'm so happy for you. Would you believe that I've never had a whoopie pie? And I live in New England, the heart of whoopie land, supposedly.

  6. Everything is a BIG deal when you are pregnant:) You had the right to be upset over what has happened. I am glad that it all has turned out okay for you. I am fixing to move 800 miles from home in 3 weeks, so I can kinda relate to your feelings. Of course, I am not pregnant but never the less I am stressed out. I know that it will all work out for us too. Just think about not lifting the boxes and that will put a smile on your face;) Good luck to you and Paul.

  7. Coming out of the lurk zone here- because I love your blog, and also I must tell you that it seems to be part of pregnancy to move houses. I did it both times, and I see it happen over and over again. So now you are really part of the club, and I'm glad you're in a better house. Cheers.

  8. I am glad everything worked out for you! I didn't realise you were expecting - double congrats! Love the whoopie pies!

  9. I didn’t think it was possible to improve upon Whoopie Pies. By dolling them up with pumpkin and spice and everything nice, you delightfully have proven me wrong. I’m happy to read that everything is falling back into place for you. Congrats on your new nest!

  10. Wow, what a nightmare to come home to--I can only imagine what that week was like--but dang if you haven't turned it into your own advantage. I'm happy you have an even better nest to feather!


  11. I. LOVE. Whoopie Pies.

    And also you.

  12. Oh thank goodness it all worked out! And a pool? So envious am I in my 50 degree, rainy, DC surroundings!

    These look fab by the way - noted to try asap.

  13. Sorry to hear about the house but it seems to have worked out...especially the big-belly-doesn't-have-to-lift-boxes part!

    I love the recipe and am going to make these for our upcoming annual Halloween party. We'll be thinking of you and making whoopie (LOL)

    Looking forward to seeing pictures of the baby SOON : )

  14. Congratulations on your new nest! I have never tried the whoopie pies, but they sound delicious and can't wait to make them for my boys (they looove cream cheese...) My best wishes for your settling in...

  15. Congratulations on the new home! There are so many exciting changes in your life.

    I had stumbled upon your blog when it was nominated in the foodbuzz awards and just wanted to let you know that I've been hooked ever since. Your writing is poignant, humorous, and deeply relatable, and I found myself reading more and more of your archives. Esp love your Letter #1 and Expectations - they brought tears to my eyes!

    Wish you the best of luck with everything and looking forward to reading more from you!

    Btw I did end up voting for you :)

  16. I'm so happy when you're happy, Sara. A pool and a threshold, whoopie pies and baby. So glad for you!

  17. you have my vote... i've laughed and cried on t;his site... and even got some cooking/baking done... thanks and good wishes