the merry-go-round and a recipe for peach crisp

It’s been just a few weeks since we traveled to the beaches of Seaside. My memories of those moments spent lounging on the beach or playing with the kids in the sand seem distant, as if they happened years ago and not just earlier this month. I had hoped the restorative properties of that vacation would still be lingering into the end of August and beyond. Instead, the vacation’s effects dissipated quickly, like wisps of steam rising from the hot pavement after one of our sudden, late-afternoon storms.

In between activities with the kids last weekend, I found myself researching potential trips we could take over spring break next year. I scoured travel magazines, hoping for inspiration and bookmarking pages to return to. I spent too much time on various airlines’ websites, searching for exciting destinations that we can reach with only a flight or two. I crowd-sourced ideas from my Facebook friends, looking for potential places to take the kids to see snow for the first time, to go skiing or snow-shoeing or sleigh-riding. I daydreamed of sipping hot cocoa by a fireplace while the kids make snow angels outside our cabin. I imagined how refreshing the turquoise waters of the Caribbean would feel on my ankles.

I polled the children, even, trusting their opinion enough to let them weigh in. The eight-year old said, “Why am I thinking Hawaii?”

And while I like how she thinks, I’m not mentally and physically ready for that trip – and those time zones – with these kids.

It was at the park Sunday afternoon that I understood what all of this vacation planning was really about.

The day was overcast and breezy, as rain bands from Isaac inched closer. I sat on a bench and watched Maddie and Oliver spin on the merry-go-round, going faster and faster, gaining momentum with each rotation.   I realized that I, too, was spinning. My mind was unsettled, and I was feeling a sense of pressure, the weight of numerous unknown stressors bearing down on my shoulders, making my heart feel heavy.

My method for coping with the stress? Planning an escape. Spending all of those hours on the computer, scouring travel sites and flight schedules. The vacation would not happen for many months, but the process of planning of it was soothing, now.

When I imagined the four of us trekking through the El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico or taking a sleigh-ride through the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, some of the tension and discord I was feeling lifted. The lightening of spirit was temporary, but it was predictable and reliable. It felt good.

Sunday night came and went, and the routine of the schoolweek and workweek began. I stopped daydreaming about spring break. I stopped trip planning, instead making a  conscious effort to live in the moment, in each day as it happens.

I’ll eventually get back to trip planning. But not now, not today. That sense of urgency and pressure and need to get away now has passed. And today? I may not be off the merry-go-round, but I’m pretty sure it’s slowed down a bit.

*    *    *    *

What does this have to do with peach crisp? Not much, truthfully, other than the fact that this dessert is pure comfort food, and sometimes we just need that.  This peach crisp is a reassuring hug that just happens to be served up in bowl.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Peach Crisp

I've made this with regular, all-purpose flour, and I've also made it for gluten-free friends. If you want to make it gluten-free, it's simple: just substitute the 1/2 cup flour in the topping with a gluten-free flour mix (such as this one from King Arthur Flour). Regardless of how you make it, serve it with a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream on top.


3 ½ pounds fresh peaches (6 to 7 medium), peeled and pitted and chopped
½ cup granulated sugar

1 cup rolled oats
½ cup all-purpose (or gluten-free) flour
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch coarse salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 pinch coarse salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Macerate the peaches: Toss peaches and granulated sugar together in a large bowl and let sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. While the peaches are macerating, make the topping: Combine oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a small bowl. Add butter and combine using a pastry blender or your fingers (fingers work best). The topping should be in bits and chunks. [Note: The topping can be made in advance. Just refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.]

4. Make the filling: Drain peaches in a colander set over a bowl to catch the peach juice. Whisk ¼ cup of the drained peach juice with the cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, light brown sugar, and salt. In a large bowl, combine the drained peaches with the peach juice mixture, stirring well.

5. Pour filling into an 8-inch square glass baking dish or a deep pie dish. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling. Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Serve warm or at room temperature.