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How To Bake The Perfect Apple Pie

How To Bake The Perfect Apple Pie

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How To Bake The Perfect Apple Pie

244 pagine
3 ore
Jun 4, 2015


A scrumptious pie. A long distance guy. 4th of July fireworks guaranteed.

Lauren Hauser has it all…nearly. With a shiny new job and sparkly new engagement ring on her finger, the only thing she’s missing is her gorgeous new fiancé by her side. Should she be worried? Jack’s kisses are as sizzling as always and, sure, long distance is hard but, she and Jack are solid, right?

Of course the stress of planning a wedding—or not—is nothing compared to the stress of baking an apple pie. Because it’s not just any apple pie that Lauren must bake for the 4th of July contest; it’s her grandmother’s famous, award-winning apple pie! Yet Lauren is determined to make this pie her own and a little apple pie should be no problem for the Hauser clan dessert queen…!

But with her new job taking up so much time, a prize pie to perfect and the growing distance between her and Jack, Lauren begins to wonder if she can really have it all… Only one things for sure, there’ll be fireworks this 4th of July!

The Home for the Holidays series:

Book 1 - How to Bake the Perfect Pecan Pie

Book 2 - How to Bake the Perfect Christmas Cake

Book 3 - How to Bake the Perfect Apple Pie

Book 4 - How to Bake the Perfect Wedding Cake

Jun 4, 2015

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How To Bake The Perfect Apple Pie - Gina Calanni


Chapter One

The room is warm. Too warm. I blow a puff air up over my face and blink several times. I need to focus. I know it’s not the thermostat setting in the office. The room temperature is fine. Javier always keeps a steady seventy-four degrees throughout the year, regardless of the season. Apparently, our CEO read some sort of Business News report about productivity being at the ultimate level of achievability at seventy-four degrees, which is why we never go over or under it. There’s even a sign underneath the thermostat in the hallway, typed in caps using Arial Black font that reads: IF YOU HAVE BODY-REGULATING ISSUES YOU CAN HAVE A FLOOR HEATER AT YOUR DESK IN THE WINTER OR A DESK FAN IN THE SUMMER. THE MAIN TEMPERATURE WILL NOT CHANGE.

Always seventy-four. Yet today it feels so much hotter. It’s January. Shouldn’t it be cold? I fan my hand in front of my face. My hairline is moist. I’m uncomfortably hot. How am I supposed to be able to think in this furnace? The temperature will not change.

Change. So much has changed since I left Baltimore, Maryland, before Christmas and headed home to Texas for the holidays. Back then my fingers were empty. Ringless. Now there is a sparkling diamond staring at me from my left hand, which is shaking slightly. I try to steady it. The ring is trying to break the inanimate objects can’t talk to people rule and remind me that I’m now engaged.

I roll my eyes. As if I could forget about it? It’s not like I’m not happy about it. I am. My heart squeezes tight anytime Jack crosses my mind. Which is all the time. When I kissed him goodbye at the airport on Sunday, I hesitated for a second and debated internally about getting on the plane. Leaving him and his arms stung. I’ve never been so sad to leave Texas.

When I left for college, I was excited about all the opportunities ahead of me. I’ve spent each moment working towards a career, not just a job. My hard work paid off, literally, as I landed a huge promotion, right before I left for my Christmas holiday. But, there is a problem. Now I’m in the frying pan of life. The kitchen has gotten too hot and I don’t know what to do. Which direction to take. I love the reason I’m wearing this ring. It’s not a why reason, but rather a who. Jack.

Everything happened so fast… I can’t catch my breath. When, we’re together it’s as if we are on our own planet with no gravity. And when I’m without him it’s like I’ve lost my oxygen tank and I can’t breathe. I’m floating into outer space without my ship.

I take in a deep breath. I’m not going to cry at work.

It catches in my chest… I force myself to exhale. How am I supposed to sit here and focus on these résumés and not on him? It’s so weird to have known someone for such a short period of time and then for them to become your whole world.

Except, he isn’t exactly my whole world. I have my own life here in Baltimore and he has his life in Texas. A life that was uprooted about a year ago when his brother Lewis died. Jack put his architecture business on hold to help Lewis’s widow, Sherry, handle things at Vintage Estates, a retirement home that has been in their family for years. My grandmother has an apartment there. It’s how we met…or how she set us up over Thanksgiving.

The day I was going nuts for a simple two ounces of pecans.

I’m nuts about Jack and the idea of being married to him. Little scatters of excitement jolt across my insides. I can’t wait until we can finally be together. But I don’t even know what it means. We haven’t discussed this to a level of an actual plan…yet. Jack is a good planner and even though, when we first met, he accused me of being a poor planner, I’m not. We just need to get some arrangements figured out. Something. We haven’t even set a date for our wedding… Well, he wants to run off and elope, but my family would be extremely upset for decades if we didn’t have a huge wedding. And honestly I would be a bit bothered too… I don’t have a wedding scrapbook comprised of dresses, decorations, designs, themes, etc., like Brianna—my best friend who is not engaged. But I would like some sort of wedding, with a celebration. A party. Something to commemorate the day besides a Vegas picture and maybe a loss at the blackjack tables. Jack. I bite my lip.

It has been less than twenty-four hours since I’ve seen Jack and I already miss him. My throat is dry. I swallow. I’m parched. I take a sip from my coffee mug. I need to focus! The promotion I was given before Christmas break means I am no longer on a team, but I am running one. Or I am about to run one. I shuffle the papers in front of me. There are names across the top of each paper followed by call times, sales rankings, conflict resolution percentages, etc. I’m supposed to figure out which of these candidates I want on my team.

I blow air up over my face again and wipe away the sweat beads along my hairline. I have never really had an issue with the temperature at work, but I am now considering opting into the desk fan program. I can’t be a hot mess, especially not as the boss. Shiat. I’m the boss. My chest tightens and I jump at the sound coming from my desk.

My office phone is ringing. I jerk my head back and lift the handle off the receiver.

Lauren Hauser, how may I help you?

Lauren, darling! My you sound so professional.

Grandmother, hi—how did you get this number? I don’t even know my new office number yet.

Oh darling, you know if I want something, I get it.

Yes, Grandmother.

Speaking of, there is something I want you to do.

My insides clutch tight.

What’s that?

Darling, you know every year at the Fourth of July festival there is an apple pie baking contest?

Yes. I swallow but the lump in the back of my throat doesn’t clear.

I want you to enter it. It’s time Lauren. You are ready to be the next pie baking award winner of the family.

My eyes practically fall from my head. I am by far the least culinary-savvy person in our family. I do not understand why my grandmother keeps putting me up to these baking challenges. Over Thanksgiving she insisted that I make our family pecan pie, which actually went well…because I was with Jack. Jack. My shoulders slump.

I don’t know, Grandmother, I’m pretty busy what with my new promotion and everything…perhaps it would be better to ask Megan? My sister Megan is a foodnetworkaholic. She could probably win the competition blindfolded.

Darling, if I had wanted to ask Megan, then I would be speaking with her right now, wouldn’t I?

Yes, Grandmother.

Now listen, darling, I’m going to mail you my special apple pie recipe. I’ve made notes about which ingredients you can alter to make it your own. It would be a good idea to start practicing right away.

Yes, Grandmother.

The Fourth of July is only six months away, dear!

Yes, Grandmother, I’ll start practicing ASAP, but right now I’ve got to get back to work.

Sure, darling, talk to you later. I hang up the phone.

Knock. Knock. Someone is at my office door. Part of the promotion includes an office. A real office. Not a cubicle, like the one I had pre-promotion. I have four actual walls—well one of the walls is made of glass, but it has blinds. Of course the rule is the blinds must remain open at all times, unless you are a nursing mother, then your blinds can be closed temporarily.

I scoot out my leather chair and tap the cherrywood desk with my nails. I bite my lip as I make my way to the door. I pull open the door to see Javier, my boss, standing outside it. He is wearing his dress-for-success grey suit accompanied by a navy pinstriped tie. I bet he is happy to be back in his conservative ties. He won’t have to wear one of his holiday ties from his kids until Valentine’s Day.

How’s it going, Lauren? Do you have everything all set up? Javier’s smile is grandiose. He is obviously happy to see me in my new office. The gossip was that he had to pull quite a few strings to get me an office next to his. There were some not nice things said apparently, but one of my co-workers, Leena, told me she quelled the rumors—whether or not this is true, is still up for debate.

It’s going great… This office is perfect. I open the laminate door wider so he can come in and check it out. On my desk is my flat-screen monitor and company-issued laptop, which I am allowed to take home. The idea of being able to take my computer home with me is cool, except it also means I am required to work from home occasionally. Which I’m not as excited about.

Next to my monitor is my New Year’s Resolutions coffee cup. It came with a dry-erase marker and every year my mom asks me to tell her what I’ve written on the cup. As if I would actually write my resolutions on a coffee cup for all of my office to see! Next to the cup is a photo of Jack. I snagged it from his house. It’s one of him on a mountain he hiked. I know it’s an important photo and not nice to steal, but I don’t really see this as true thievery because I intend on giving it back to him or sharing it with him at some point. I assume we will be living together soon or at least I hope we will. Maybe I will even have a copy of it made. What if I have to have a copy made because we never end up together? that annoying voice inside my head whispers. Argh! My shoulders slump.

I wanted to have a picture of him to take back with me, but he wouldn’t stand still long enough for me to snap one with my phone. I have the slowest phone on the planet. I do not want to get the upgrade because I do not see why my phone of less than three years needs to be upgraded. I know plenty of other people who have never upgraded their iPhones and yet my newer one is living in a prehistoric era. It’s almost as if I can hear the krrrrr beep of a modem dialing up to the internet every single time I use it.

Lauren? Javier is staring at me. Shiat. Here I have been out in Lauren-land and my boss is talking to me. This is not the type of impression I want to make on my first day of being a mid-level consultant manager. Though, I don’t have anyone to manage, yet.

I raise my eyebrows at him. I hope he will take this cue and just repeat what he has said or asked instead of me having to ask for him to do so.

Have you picked out your team? Javier raises his eyebrows in return at me.

I smile. I was just going over the candidate list…so many great people to choose from. I nod.

Javier nods in agreement with me. Exactly, but you’ve got to choose five and get started. We expect to see high-resolution numbers and sales rankings before the end of Q1 from you and your team. Time is money. Javier pulls out his phone from his pocket and taps on the screen. It’s ten after ten. I’ll give you until noon to have your five. Javier slides his phone back in his pocket and taps his knuckles on my desk. I blink twice and focus on what he has just said.

Thank you, Javier, I’ll see you at noon then. I smile my most professional grin. Which is covering my fear of not being able to decide on the best candidates from this pile of at least thirty people. Being decisive is not one of my strong points—at least not when it comes to choosing people. Choosing stocks, bonds, any types of investments, that on the other hand is my thing. I gulp.

Javier nods and closes the door to my office. I slink into my leather bulleted chair and let out a huge sigh, eyeing the papers full of promising candidates across my desk. A vibrating noise comes from within my desk drawer. I’m confused and then realize it’s a phone call. I pull out the bottom drawer and dig through my purse in search of my phone. It’s got to be the biggest item in my purse, yet is always so hard to find.

I slide the green button across the front of the screen.


Hi, this is KPRC Local News calling. Am I speaking with the new badass client consulting manager at Calstone Corp?

Hey Bri! I can’t really talk; I have to make a big decision by noon.

Dafuq, tell me you are not still thinking about moving back to Texas?

My tongue touches the bottom of one of my upper canines. I press my lips together.

I sigh. I don’t know, but—

Lauren, be smart. You just got a HUGE promotion.

I pull the phone away from my ear. I know, which is why I have to go. I have work to do.

Hmph, somebody gets a promotion and suddenly they have no time for fun phone calls anymore. Lamesville.

I laugh. I am in Lamesville, right—great word choice by the way. Maybe you can use it for one of your next house selling slogans. I laugh; the idea of Brianna writing something like that for a sales campaign would be hilarious.

Fine, cocktails at six. Ravens, be there or be square and next time I call, I’m going to block my number so you have to play along! The dial tone sounds in my ear.

I roll my eyes and sigh. Time to get to work. I glance at the time on my laptop. I have less than ninety minutes to find the best candidates out of this pile. My phone begins moving across my desk. Is Brianna seriously calling me again? I snatch my phone off the desk. The caller ID alerts me of the contact. It’s a number already logged in my phone that reads Jack-my-fiancé. My heart drops into my lower stomach. I pucker my lips together and shake my head. I hover my finger over the rectangle. One slide and I can hear his warm voice. I imagine whatever he will say to me will send my body into further withdrawal. I’m like a junkie…out of rehab on the first day. But I have to be strong. I need to focus. I can’t talk to him right now.

I press the thin button on the top of my phone to silence the vibrations and toss it into my purse. I roll the drawer shut and focus on the task at hand. Even if I were to move back to Texas, I would still treat each moment here as if I’m not going anywhere.

The first paper is for a Trent Riznor. I laugh, wondering if his parents chose this name on purpose. I mean, I know or I would assume every parent names their child for a specific reason, but this name is so close… I smile. Ha! Closer, yes. I can imagine this song playing in my head and being underneath Jack in his room. Mmm…I shake my head. Focus, Lauren, focus.

Hmm, let’s see—what qualifications does Trent have, other than perhaps very cool parents? I read over his résumé. It’s fairly impressive. The space of employment in between his last two jobs is concerning, but I put his résumé into my maybe pile. I definitely want to chat with him. I pick up the next candidate, Courtney Gable. Nope, I wouldn’t want Courtney on my team. She is historically known for long bouts of crying at her desk. I do not need a drama queen. I don’t know why she cries, but we are here to work.

I rummage through all thirty résumés in under forty minutes. I give myself a Tina Fey high five for timing and then send out instant messages to the few on my list, giving each of them a five-minute slot to meet with me before my meeting with Javier. I’m interrupted by a knock on my door.

Could Trent already be standing on the other side? Only a couple of minutes have passed since I sent the IM. Very prompt, a good sign.

I pull the door open and am greeted by a tall, dark, slick-back-haired guy with Superman specs. Er…I mean Clark Kent.

I cock my head to the right. Trent? I raise an eyebrow in question.

Yes, ma— Trent offers his hand.

I hold my hand up to stop him. Please call me Lauren…always. I shake his hand. It’s rough and firm. I’m glad he doesn’t do the squeeze your hand until it hurts grip. I seriously do not understand the point of that type of handshake!

Yes…I’m sorry…nice to meet you, Lauren. Trent nods. I open the door wider and motion with my hand for him to come in. I shut the door and sashay to my desk. My navy pinstriped pencil skirt with my crisp white blouse screams I’m professional. Or at least it did to me this morning when I put it on.

So, Trent, I’ve got to make a quick decision as I stated in my IM. Tell me why you should be on my team. I nod to give him a cue to speak.

Right, well as you can see from my résumé I have several years of work experience with top consulting firms and I have been ranking right underneath you in sales, though I’ve only been here for a couple of months. He grins with a bit of arrogance. I do appreciate his sales numbers, but I am concerned with his resolution tactics. Does he display this type of arrogance to our clients? Some might appreciate it, but others would surely be turned off. I tap on my keyboard to pull up his resolution percentage. Sixty-five percent.

Hmm… I shake my head. Trent, you do have great sales numbers; this is one of the main reasons you are sitting at my desk, but your resolution percentage is not so hot. I pause.

Yes, I’m at sixty-five percent, but I’m making strides upward. When I began I was at thirty-three percent.

I hold up my hand. Thirty-three percent is horrible. I pull back my head. I can’t believe this guy is still employed by Calstone Corp. I shake my head and bite my lip.

Trent nods and links his fingers together. Correction, it was horrible. I have doubled my resolution percentage in the brief time I’ve been here. I’ve made adjustments and gotten better at reading customers to get them what they want while still achieving my high sales numbers. Trent lifts one eyebrow up.

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