gingerbread chess pie

You know those days, the ones where you do seemingly nothing, and yet you walk away feeling so fulfilled? That was today. It was a snow day, sans the snow. I’m sure any of you watching the weather saw news of a Nor’easter. There was talk of snow, a lot of it, too. There was also talk that the air mass could change temperatures and directions, and maybe we’d just get rain. Well, it was the latter, but combined with below freezing temperatures, it made for icy, slick conditions this morning. The delayed start email came at 5:55am, and I was thankful for the extra couple of hours of sleep. Less than two hours later, a follow up email came that school was cancelled.

There were days in NYC that a foot of snow would fall, and school being open was more reliable than the mail delivery. Up here it’s a whole different story. I’ve never felt more vulnerable to the weather and my surroundings than when the forecast calls for a storm. My water comes from a well. If the reserve is low, and power goes out, no power, no pump…no water. I discovered that one the hard way this summer. Four days after we made the full time move up, we had a storm that knocked the power out. I’d just done laundry, and drained the well. It never even occurred to me. Now when I see a storm is brewing, I don’t go anywhere near the washing machine. And there’s a few gallons of water in the basement, just in case.

Gingerbread Chess Pie |

A few days after that first storm, we had another storm. You guessed it…the power went out again. This time we were leaving the next morning for Quebec City. I tucked the girls in, packed by candelight, and remembered I had some berries I’d been meaning to make into jam. Thankfully the stove is gas, and I was able to light the burners. Yes, I made jam by candelight. Obviously my priorities are in order, or they need to be completely reassessed.

I decided to embrace the storm this time. I prepared as much as possible.

Candles. Check.

Milk. Check.

C Batteries. Check. Oh wait, all the flashlights take D batteries. Note to self for next time.

As I began to cook dinner, I noticed the flame seemed weaker than normal. It’d been on my mind for  a few days to call Bottini, the oil and propane company. I hadn’t seen a delivery come in months. I placed a call that I was concerned, especially with the storm coming. Within an hour two guys pulled up with the propane truck and remedied the situation. The tank was EMPTY. I didn’t think to call Bottini when I moved up here full time. I just figured the tank levels were monitored electronically. Now I know that there’s a gauge I can check the level (stop laughing—I’ve lived in apartments my entire life!). Same goes for the oil, which was at a 1/4 tank. A few more days, and we would’ve had no heat. A year ago, I would’ve beaten myself up, and felt foolish for such rookie mistakes. Last night, I just laughed them off, and looked at the silver lining that it got remedied so quickly (and effortlessly, too).

It’s funny how in Brooklyn a snow day felt like a curse. It took so much energy to go outside and play. Here, I can just open the back door and set the kids loose. My house is half the size of my old apartment, but I have something here in the country I didn’t have in the city. I have space, literally and figuratively, to feel freer than I’ve felt in a long time.

So, when school was indeed cancelled, I felt prepared to hunker down with our girls and enjoy the gift of a cozy day inside, complete with Christmas movies, cartoons, and gingerbread houses. Barely a fight, homework done with one whimper of protest, and the storm had prompted me to push up my Christmas shopping on Monday, so I feel a little ahead of the game, for now. It was uneventful, leisurely, and one of the most perfect days we’ve had in a long time. I’m keeping a close eye on tomorrow’s forecast. Part of me feels like we should go back to school on the high note, but I’m willing to take my chances that we can weather many more snow days to come.

Gingerbread Chess Pie |

This recipe is now part of my new site, Simmering. It can be found by searching the archives here.


  • Kathy

    Hi Jennie- what a great post. I used to love snow days with my girls – we’d do the same thing – we’d watch movies and we’d bake too. They are off to college now so enjoy every minute. One quick note, the link to your crust isn’t ‘live’. I can’t wait to make this!

  • Rebecca

    Your new house stories are great – and they give me an idea of what is to come! My fiance and I just bought our first (town)house and we are so clueless right now… just trying to figure things out one step (and phone call and voicemail and email) at a time.

    In other news, that pie may have to be one of the first things I try in our new kitchen!

  • Heather

    Living in the “country” is a whole other way of life, but well worth it. The best part of this is that you were able to laugh it off & move forward. May you enjoy all your snow days.

  • Cynthia A.

    I loved snow days back when my kids were in school. Now that they’re in college no more snow days for me (along with no more driving to the bus stop). It’s an interesting shift.

    Your house story resonates because even after having lived in our house for 20+ years I feel rather clueless when it comes to the nuts and bolts of home ownership. My husband deals with most house-related things which I could probably do if I thought about it (turning off the outdoor faucets so the pipes don’t freeze). There are a few though that I couldn’t manage, even if you paid me, like cleaning the gutters (I’m afraid of heights and would most likely get stuck up there). Bravo to you for managing it all on your own!

  • Robin B

    Hi Jennie,

    Talk to your propane company. Sometimes they have an “auto fill” option where they will just fill your tank every so often. That way you don’t have to worry about checking.

  • DanT

    Jennie you can talk to someone about a gasoline powered backup generator. If power goes out some of them will seamlessly turn on to provide power to essential services

  • DanT

    Jennie you can talk to someone about a gasoline powered backup generator. If power goes out some of them will even automatically turn on to provide seamless power to essential services like water pump, fridge, etc.

  • Deirdre

    I too am a city girl (from Washington Heights) transplanted to Washington state, and have had to learn about propane, septic systems and downed power lines. In fact, we are in the middle of a windstorm and the power went off momentarily, giving me a brief moment of panic because I have a lot to do today. We have an agreement with our propane company that the truck comes by periodically and fills up the tank, and they bill us. I also keep a few camping lanterns in the house, because they are better than flashlights. Who knew?

  • Jennifer Perillo

    Thanks DanT. I do have a pretty large propane generator. It works off of those BBQ tanks, and need to ask the company to add a hook up to my main propane tank. I’d love the automatic generator back up but those run in the $8K range. Maybe next year!

  • Jennifer Perillo

    They do Robin. I just forgot to mention that I moved up here full time so my usage increased dramatically. Now they know to check in more often. 🙂

  • Robynne

    Actually Costco had a whole house generator for sale last year… nice looking completely enclosed unit. I believe it was just under $5000… several models depending on your need. My favorite though is my little red honda… quiet and keeps the important stuff going. Another idea is a battery backup for your computer and I have reverse current flashlights plugged in throughout the house. They come on instantly if the power goes out… that’s come in handy a time or two!!!

  • Anne


    Thank you. This looks very homey. Was there supposed to be a link to a pie crust recipe? Just wondering.

  • Jennifer Perillo

    Yes, Anne. Sorry about that! I just updated the post to include the link to the pie crust.

  • Liz

    That pie looks and sounds wonderful. I have never made a chess pie of any kind unless you kind of count pecan pie. On my list!

    I have to thank you for the house/power writing as well. I have lived in rural NW Montana with well/septic, etc. for 13 years and in my current home for 8. I thought I knew “everything”, but your post raised a question and I called my plumber. I have a 25 gallon pressure tank and a 75 gallon water heater tank. The pressure tank is set to a certain pressure and when it falls below that setting the tank sends a signal to the well pump which fires up and water is pumped to the pressure tank until pressure is reached. I had assumed (we all know about that!!!) that in the case of a power outage, I had 25 gallons in the pressure tank and 75 gallons in the water heater tank. BUT…I got to wondering if I needed power to GET those tank’s water. Hence the call to the plumber.

    So, no, I can get the water from both without power…BUT the pressure tank, which I’d assumed was always 25 gallons full…might be as low as 5 gallons per my plumber…it all depends where it is on the pressure cycle.

    Like you, Jennie, I keep bottled water backup, but I’m glad to have a clearer picture of what would happen without power.

    I am fortunate that this house is on a secondary road with underground power AND the highway lines are on newish, large, laminated square poles well away from the highway and we are not treed like the east, nor do we typically get the icing like the east does, i.e. it is rare for the power to be out for any extended period.

    And for the genset recommenders… the thing is, it takes quite a lot of amps to fire up a well pump AND a house must be properly wired to come off the grid. It is possible to hurt/kill linemen if a genset is used incorrectly for house power. My house happens to be set up to take it off the grid and be supplied by a generator…and there is a generator “house” hooked up to that switch. I haven’t bought a generator because even with the wiring done, a generator to fire the well pump is still $5K plus.

  • Prema

    Dear Jennie,

    I’ve been a long-time fan of your blog, introduced to me by way of reading Merry’s posts over at Merry Gourmet. Your life and the multifaceted way in which you share it with your readers – tender, raw, poignant, sheer emotional, humorous, vibrant – is such a gift.

    I caught sight of this pie, and on a whim, I made it earlier this week (for a mid-week pick me up). The best compliment from my family? “This is the very best dessert you’ve ever made” (and I make many, many desserts).

    A deep bow of gratitude for sharing so much with your readers. May you and your family be touched with joy this holiday season.