Archive | September, 2013

German Apple Cake

usThe best part about getting married in an apple orchard is that we get to return to our wedding venue every fall to pick apples.

Autumn is my very favorite time of year. Not just for all things pumpkin flavored, or the cooling crisp air, or gorgeous foliage (although all that is super wonderful). No, fall is my favorite because it stirs something in my blood. It wakes up a restlessness in me, makes me view everything with fresh eyes. It’s a season both melancholy and electrifying and it makes me feel alive and awake.

I worried a bit, when we first moved here, because fall is such a quintessential New England thing. How could autumn anywhere be as soul-stirring as it is in New England? In the land of perpetual winter, would fall even make an appearance?

Yes. There is fall in Minnesota. It may be short-lived, but it’s here.


Last weekend David and I spent the morning at the apple orchard where we were married. We walked through the woods and among all the apple trees. We wandered past the gazebo where we spoke our vows, and the hidden, shady nook where we spent our first few moments alone as husband and wife. We ate apple cider and fresh donuts and sat on wooden benches at the top of a hill over looking hundreds of apple trees and talked about how we’ll bring our daughter here next year, and each year after that, and tell the stories of this magical place where Mama and Papa got married.

We left the orchard with a modest armful of apples, and when we got home I made this cake.

apple cake


German Apple Cake

This recipe has been in my recipe box so long I no longer remember where I first found it. I know I tweaked it a great deal over the years. It is immensely forgiving and adaptable (brown sugar, cranberries, nuts!). And delicious. It’s one of David’s favorites.

This is a coffee cake, a snacking cake, a so-close-to-a-muffin-you-can-eat-it-for-breakfast cake. You can dress it up with a caramel sauce or a cinnamon glaze if you’re feeling jazzy, but we usually just sprinkle it with powdered sugar and chomp away.


  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 (depending on your sweet tooth. I like it with 1/4) cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups apples – peeled, cored and diced


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease and flour cake pan (or bundt pan, or glass dish–whatever. This works well no matter what).
  • In a mixing bowl; beat oil, applesauce, and eggs until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat well.
  • Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and ground cinnamon together in a separate bowl. Slowly add this mixture to the egg mixture and mix until combined. The batter will be very thick. Fold in the apples by hand using a wooden spoon. Spread batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool fully, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.

This cake keeps very well covered at room temperature for a few days, but it will get more moist (which I love) as time goes by. You can also store it in the fridge for a week, assuming it will last that long.


Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Food

Not All Bad

Yesterday I came home to a letter informing me that my therapist is resigning. Today I forgot to take my nausea medication. My To Do lists (both personal and professional) are a million miles long, and I don’t even know where to begin. It has been a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day around here for what feels like every day since ever.

It’s really tempting to wallow in my misery at this point. I could tell you about how yesterday I somehow had cat shit encrusted on the bottom of my shoe and couldn’t get it off no matter what I tried, so I spent the entire day slinking around the office smelling like cat shit. I could tell you about how putting together a baby registry is the most daunting, exhausting thing on the face of the Earth, which I did not at all anticipate. What about the fact that my husband is devoting himself fervently to his job, working 12 to 14 hour days and beyond, and is still so dedicated to getting his program off the ground that every setback cuts him to the core. And it kills me to see him so exhausted and stressed out, and yet be too exhausted and stressed out myself to be able to be the kind of supportive wife I really want to be.

Basically, things are discouraging at Chez Van Sant right now. And we are drowning in our guilt. The baby room is still full of unpacked stuff and laundry and random furniture and zero actual baby stuff. Guilt. We abandoned our household budget for the summer and are now dreading the thought of updating our spreadsheets because we let it go so long. Guilt. We are severely out of touch with friends and family, both local and long distance. Guilt. Chores, healthy meals, and running errands are just not really happening. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

We are in survival mode, and only just barely surviving.

And yet, I want to force myself to see past that. In high school I was a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (in a persona that was both authentic and cultivated in equal measure. A lot of it wore off in college) and kept a lot of journals, different books for different things. One that carried on in different formats throughout the years was some sort of gratitude journal, or list of things that made me happy. I used to ask people to swap stories of the three best and three worst things that happened to us that day. Often times the “best” things are small. On extraordinarily shitty days you need to really dig deep to find something positive to say amidst all the, well, shit. Sometimes the positive thing is literally, “I made it through the day without stabbing everyone,” but at least that’s something.

It would be easy to tell myself that NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS ANYMORE and a lot of the time, lately, I feel like that’s the truth. But it isn’t. Good things continue to happen, even now, and here’s the proof:

Good Things, Lately

  • David and I are reading the Harry Potter series aloud to each other again and there are no words to describe how gleeful this makes me.
  • My nails have been really long and strong and awesome since I got knocked up.
  • When she’s not being a total bitch our cat is really cute and hilarious.
  • This morning I left the house without eating breakfast and there were bagels and cream cheese waiting for me in the office!
  • I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen last night and I am ridiculously proud of that fact.
  • It really feels like fall, now, and fall is my very favorite season.
  • We have cookie butter and coconut cookie thins.
  • Baby Van Sant is healthy and active.
  • My husband comes to kiss me goodbye every morning when he leaves for work, even though I am still mostly asleep.
  • Our new couch was delivered, so now I get to sit next to David and snuggle him for a few minutes in the evening, instead of sitting in folding chairs apart from him.
  • I have cooked twice in the last two weeks: baked peach halves with almond crumble, and baked ziti with homemade sauce.
  • On Saturday night David and I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch When Harry Met Sally and laughed and cried and held hands. The best line of that whole move is, “I want you to know… that I will never want that wagon wheel coffee table.”
  • I got a surprise letter from an old friend recently. A real letter. In the mail.

Seeing them all written out like that makes me feel a bit better about things. Even though all of that was spread out across weeks and weeks and interspersed with lots of terrible stuff, at least I can still muster up a collection of things that make me happy.


Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Personal



A year ago today, I married David in an apple orchard.

Was it the best day of my life? I hope not. I hope my life is long, and full, and shared with my wonderful husband and the family we’re making together. I hope there are so many more best days. September 1, 2012 was pretty damn magical, though.

My first year of marriage has been challenging. David and I dealt with the rigors of grad school, stressful yet rewarding job situations, moving to a new apartment, and a difficult pregnancy this year. Although in some ways I wish our first year as newly weds could have been more laid back, the external challenges really knit us together in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.

stolen beer and sunsets

We were together for five years before we got married, had lived together for three years, and had weathered some Big Things in our shared time. I didn’t expect marriage to change me so much, or to change my relationship with my partner in such concrete ways. But it has.

I know how to be vulnerable without entirely surrendering my sense of self now. I know how to identify and articulate the things I want and need. I know how to make space for another person in my life, a person whose needs sometimes come before my own. I know what it’s like to pursue my goals, knowing that there is a person who supports me every step of the way. I know how to love another person fiercely, even when I am cranky, even when I am angry, even when it means doing things I really, really don’t want to do. I know how to be someone else’s champion, to push him toward his dreams, to hold him back against burn out, to put my goddamn iphone down and actually listen to him when he is talking even if he has told me this story before (this last one is still hard). I have a deeper understanding of both selfishness and generosity. I know how to make one very special man laugh until he cries.

If I’ve learned all that in the span of just one year of marriage, what things can I learn in 5 years, 10, 50? I look forward to finding out.

hugs that can't wait

Marrying David made me better. A better partner, absolutely, but also a better person. And that’s not just because David is awesome (although he is) but it’s because I care a whole hell of a lot about my marriage. I put time into it. I reflect on it. I actively work to make it stronger.

At our wedding, I walked down the aisle staring at David the entire time, moving toward him with a magnetic thrum in my core. When I reached him, I hugged my father briefly, shoved my bouquet into my sister’s arms, waved at my mom, and then flung myself at my almost-husband. David, always a rule-follower, whispered to me, terrified, “Are we supposed to do this yet?”

“I don’t care!” I sobbed into his shoulder, half laughing, half crying, up on my tip-toes. His arms instantly circled around me in the tightest hug.

And then we got married.

laughter and tears


be excited!

kisses & smiles

the luckiest


 All photos in this post were taken by our wedding photographer, Kate, of KNG Sommers Photography. I cannot recommend her enough; she is bad ass. If you’d like to see more of our wedding photos, I have a ton shared on FB, or you can search Instagram hashtag #vansantwedding (having an instagram hashtag was a last minute idea on my part, and it was one of the very best ideas I ever had).

Posted by on September 1, 2013 in Personal