A Crying Baby and a Few Pies

27 Oct

Late last month I boarded a flight to Portland for the first leg of my journey to see my daughter, Alex, in New York. I sat in my assigned seat, greeted my seatmate and waited for takeoff.  A few minutes later, a young couple with a crying infant headed for their seats – one row in front of and across the aisle from me. Moments later the baby’s cries became more frantic.  At that point, the mother handed the baby to the dad, and he sat there holding his screaming baby. The “mom” in me thought that by waving at the baby I could distract him for a moment, and maybe his cries would abate.  Instead, the baby’s Dad saw me waving and handed the baby over to me.

screaming baby

I was stunned!  The baby was screaming so immediately I tried bouncing him on my knees. Then I decided this situation called for serious measures and stood up and began rocking him from back and forth. The first flight attendant said that this was okay to do and that he’d let me know when we were ready for takeoff, so I continued to rock and talk quietly to the child.  In a matter of minutes, his cries became less frantic, and soon he stopped crying altogether. Then I noticed that the baby’s head was beginning to lean on my chest and before long he was sound asleep.  At that moment, the second flight attendant told me that I needed to sit down, so I handed the baby back to his parents. When I did that, the flight attendant looked at me in disbelief and said, “He’s not yours?”

No, he wasn’t mine, but I was happy to help because (let’s be honest) many of us have had that same experience. We’re stressed out for so many reasons (for example, packing and getting ready for a trip, rushing to the airport, etc) and of course, our baby picks up on that stress. Instead of being an annoyed passenger thinking “Oh no, a crying baby” I wanted to do something if I could and, fortunately, it worked out. The baby slept for the rest of the flight, Mom and Dad seemed more relaxed, and I got to soothe (and hold) a new baby.  Win-win-win!  What a way to start my trip!

high five

The reason for my visit to New York was so that I could help celebrate Alexandra’s, 27th birthday.  We did so by attending The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (cost: free!), The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (cost: free!), and the musical The Book of Mormon (SRO tix only $27!).  We also took long walks, dined around town, and simply spent time together. It was such a good visit and I know that I am a very lucky mama!



While there I baked three apple pies… one for my brother-in-law, Mike, one for our friend Tom’s birthday, and one for my daughter’s amazing friend, Royce.

me and roycePie for Tom Minor

Royce with me and his Apple Pie and an Apple Pie for Tom.

Sullivan Street Bakeryimagine

Enjoying scrumptious bread at Sullivan Street Bakery and visiting Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial site.

Once back home, I baked another Apple Pie for one of our favorite singer/songwriters, the amazing Martin Sexton, who opened Jefferson Public Radio’s One World Performance Series. Then, a few days later, I baked yet another Apple Pie for a woman who donated to a charity that I help with. It was such fun to surprise her with a pie to thank her for her gift. Finally, a Bacon and Roasted Pepper quiche found its way to a dear friend who is going through chemo. It’s something nourishing that she can eat when she feels like eating and will also hold for a few days when she is not able to do so.

quiche for JoAnn

It’s been a long time since I’ve written and part of the reason for my delay was that there were so many stories in the news that have felt especially devastating. Some days I’ve found it hard to read the paper or listen to the radio because the stories break my heart. At times like this, I wish I could do something magical and change the world for the better. Until then, I will continue to give away pies… and maybe, every so often, I’ll rock a crying baby.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”  David Mamet

Creating ripples….

14 Sep

This last month, in addition to baking almost every day,  I’ve had a couple of interesting “pie” experiences that I would like to share with you.

a quiche for Liz

A Quiche for Liz

The first occurred at a party for my husband’s team of managers.  One of the women there asked me if I was still baking pies everyday.  No, I answered, it’s more like a few times a month.  She then turned to her partner and said, “Karen baked a pie a day for a year.”  That’s when he looked at me and said, “You’re the pie lady?  You brought me a pie!”

pumpkin pie for Debbie

Pumpkin Pie for Debbie

I wondered how that could be for I’d never seen this man before.  When he told me that he knew my friend Shirley it all came back to me.  During my “pie year”, Shirley had asked me to bring a pie to this man because he’d been so very kind and helpful to her… and of course I said I would.  Then she told me that he would not want to meet me (he’s pretty shy) and so we arranged to leave the pie in a safe place near his house.  He told me that he had arrived home that night wondering what he would have for dinner and saw a pie sitting there.  He said that pie solved the problem!  How about that… one day I deliver a pie and three years later, I finally meet the recipient!


A quiche for my friend in need

Then last week my husband and his team went to dinner with a business consultant and her husband.  My friend, Amey, was there and casually mentioned to them that Emile’s wife (me) had created a project a few years back, giving away a pie a day. The couple both seemed stunned and told Amey that their friend back home in Sacramento had read about my pie story.  She’d been so inspired by it that she decided to set up a pie stand (much like a lemonade stand).

The next day that same couple popped into the kitchen at the B&B where I am working (they were guests there…  another coincidence?). They were happy to meet me and so excited that they could go home and share this news with their friend. I gave them my card and hope that their friend will soon share her pie experiences with me!

judy's pie prep

Prepping an Apple Pie

Finally, several months back I baked a pie and a friend came to mind and I decided to bring her the pie. When I reached her on her cell phone and asked if she was at home, she told me no… and was in fact on her way to her sister’s funeral. When I told her the reason for my call, she thanked me and said she felt better knowing that I’d been thinking of her. A few days ago, I baked an apple pie and called that same friend.  This time she was home… but shared that her brother was very ill and she’d just returned from visiting him.  She said that she would love a pie and thought it might help to cheer her up.  It seems strange that I thought of her when she going through two very difficult times… but I was so grateful to be able to help in my own way.

Judy's Pie

An Apple pie for Judy

Though these stories are not extraordinary at all, what most surprises me is the fact that years after my project ended, I am still discovering how people – some whom I don’t even know – were affected in some way by the gift of a pie.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Mother Teresa


Summer Daze

11 Aug

Summer is flying by… and it seems that everyone around me is so busy!  Maybe it’s just that we all try to cram a lot of fun into these two months knowing that it soon will be over?  I don’t really know…  but it sure makes sense to enjoy this time while we have it!


A few weeks back I delivered a blackberry peach pie to a dear woman who has been battling cancer.  I suggested that instead of cooking that night (since the outdoor temps were in the three digits) that she and her daughter have some of the warm pie with ice cream for dinner instead… and that idea seemed just fine with them.


For a couple of mornings each week I’ve been helping a friend at her B&B, and have discovered some delicious treats that are quick and easy to prepare.  One day I noticed that there was an abundance of plums at the inn so I decided to make plum kuchen, or plum cake.  This recipe is similar to the one I used.  I hope that you’ll try it soon… with plums, or peaches, or berries!  I am sure that you’ll be glad you did!

me and jamie at the wedding

Last month I attended the wedding reception of the mother of one of my “other sons.”  Coco and Taylor have been close buddies since fifth grade and I was delighted to see Taylor’s mom, Jamey, so happy!  I wish her and Ian the very best!

backyard buck

Ashland is a deer friendly town… and some folks would say that isn’t okay.  As for me, I am always awed and amazed when I look out on to my fairly small backyard and see a few bucks resting there.  This is definitely not a sight I ever saw growing up in the projects!


With Pam Marsh at the “Pie Social”


Demonstrating the method to my madness 

On July 26, the Ashland Emergency Food Bank hosted a “Pie Social” to thank their many volunteers and supporters.  For one of the activities, Pam Marsh, the director of the food bank, asked if I would be willing to give a demonstration on making pie crust and I was delighted to do so.  My goal was to show what method works for me and also to encourage those in the audience to have fun while baking. Remember folks… it’s just a pie!  If you make a mistake, you’ll learn from it… and get better next time.  When Julia Child dropped the turkey she did not toss it… but rather, brushed it off and laughed about it. We all should be able to do the same!

P1040168Crater Lake

P1040169 The research vesselDinner on the dock at Wizard IslandDinner on Wizard IslandBucket of Crayfish on Wizard IslandKristin and Scott with the crayfish

Kristin and me on Wizard Islandphantom ship at crater lake Phantom Ship

For a few days this last week, I was honored to prepare meals for a group of researchers studying the crayfish problem (they are an invasive species and are affecting the newt population) at Crater Lake National Park. Among the many offerings served were several apple cobblers (since I didn’t remember to bring along pie pans) and that seemed to work out just fine. It was a bit of a logistical challenge…  but I don’t think I have ever worked in a more beautiful place!  I’m ever so grateful to Mark Buktenica (the aquatic biologist at the park) for allowing me this amazing experience.

owl on Dead Indian

On the drive home from the lake, I saw an owl perched on the fence post as I drove by and couldn’t resist going back for a quick photo.  It was absolutely magnificent to see this guy spread his wings and lift off.  It was a rare (for me) and wonderful sight!

amaroticos at the beach

Finally, I came home after working this week to see our son, Coco.  He had driven from Missoula with a friend and will be here for only a few days.  His Dad and I took him over to Gold Beach for a quick overnight visit.  That night we went to Anna’s by the Sea for dinner. When we entered the restaurant, Peter, the owner, teasingly asked me, “Karen, where is my …..ing pie?”  Funny, I had wondered if he would remember us; apparently he did.  Though I hadn’t brought along a pie, I had brought along a box of Cary’s chocolates for him… and I could tell that Peter was pleased.

Though it’s been a very hectic time, and while I am a bit tired,  what I am feeling now is a bubbling up of emotion and joy at my good fortune.  I pray that I will always remember how very lucky I am.

“God gave you a gift of 84,600 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say thank you?” William Arthur Ward

A Quick Visit to see Dad turns into “Bienvenido a Miami!”

20 Jul

Just a few days ago I was sitting in a window seat at a coffee shop in Miami watching the rain fall and wondering how I got there. Well, actually, I know how I got there… but as many times as I’ve been to Florida I’ve never ventured much beyond my Dad’s little town of Greenacres. Okay, that’s not entirely true because I’ve driven to Boynton Beach countless times but never quite this far.

WP in Miamiwall in miami

A sampling of the Wynwood Walls

The neighborhood I found myself in is called Wynwood……. and it’s an art community famous for the many murals that are painted on the sides of its buildings. There’s a youthful excitement there that I have not experienced in West Palm Beach… and I really enjoyed it. Alexandra was with me and while she was off working on a project for Warby Parker, I sat sipping a latte watching the people, and the storm clouds, go by.

alex and grandpa

Alexandra with Grandpa

Alexandra and I met in Florida to visit my Dad as his 80th birthday is this month.  I won’t be able to be there for his “actual” birthday but felt it important to spend time with him and see how he is doing.  It’s been more than two years since his stroke and while he is doing remarkably well (given the severity of the stroke) he is still upset that he cannot do what he used to do.  And I struggle (still!) because I can’t fix things for him.


One of my Dad’s neighbors.

So what can I do? Take him out to eat!  One day he wanted to get lunch and instead of the usual fast food burgers I suggested pizza… at a “real” restaurant.  Since I am somewhat unfamiliar with the area, I used my iphone and found a wonderful place (thank you Siri!) called Zuccarelli’s.  I ordered a Marguerite Pizza and it was sooooo darned good!  The aroma of the fresh basil was intoxicating and the crust was perfection. (Can you tell that I really liked that pizza?)

Pizza with Dad at Zuccarelli's

Dad at Zuccarelli’s

The next morning, I decided to make an asparagus and white cheddar quiche for one of Dad’s neighbors.  Barbara has been a tremendous help to me since Dad had his stroke and I wanted to do something to show her my appreciation. Without a rolling-pin, I had to improvise, but I think it came out rather nicely, even if I do say so myself.

quiche prep for barbaraasp quiche for barbara

Now I am back in Oregon, and I still wish that I could do more for my Dad.  It’s got to be really hard for him to deal with a changing mind and body.  If there was a switch I could flip that would make him better, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  Until then, I have to let him live out his days as best he can. And make sure that I fully enjoy every moment that I have…  to spend with my kids, my husband, my friends.  Even if that means posing for silly selfies now and then.

Alex and me

Sharing our funny faces at the pool.

When I hear somebody sigh, “Life is hard”, I am always tempted to ask, “Compared to what?”

Sydney J. Harris

A Special Ingredient

24 Jun

pie prep for PK

pie for pk

Prep for a Three Berry Pie; the finished pie

A few weeks ago, Emile and I went to a Rotary gathering at a nearby winery. There we met with other Rotarians and also with people who are considering joining our club.  During one conversation, the topic of my pie project arose and I mentioned that sometimes I really had to think about who “needed a pie” that day.  At that moment, the gentleman I was talking to stopped me with a question: “Does anyone ever really need a pie?”  Before I could answer, his lovely girlfriend piped up and in an exasperated tone said, “It’s not about the pie!”

She immediately understood that, for me, giving away pies has little to do with the crust, or the berries, or any of the other tangible ingredients. Instead, the only ingredient that truly matters is the love that is added during the process of making, baking, and delivering the confection. The recipient can’t see this… but they can feel it.  At least that is what I’ve been told: the many pie recipients who have reported back to me have shared just how good receiving a pie made them feel.  Of course, hopefully the pie tasted delicious… but more importantly I believe the knowledge that they were thought of with love made each person feel wonderful. That love just happened to have been transformed from thought to pastry—it’s kind of cool when you think about it!

In light of the horrific news of the killing of the nine church members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, my efforts to make a difference in a world that can be so evil truly seem insignificant.   My heart grieves with the families of those slain, because the senselessness of their deaths is incomprehensible.  However, my soul also feels great hope because those same grieving people offered forgiveness.  I am both humbled and in in awe of their faith and spirit.

The question that we all face is “How do we move forward from here?”  How I wish I knew the answer!  This quote by Edmund Burke comes to mind:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  

In my heart I know that we must do something.  What we do will be different for each of us, but I believe that if we act with the desire to do good—and if we act with love—we’ll be moving in the right direction.

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” 

~ Thomas Aquinas

Spring Cleaning… a voice in my head… and pies!

21 May

A few weeks ago, I realized that my there was no clear path out of my garage because it was blocked by a dresser that used to belong to my Dad.  For a moment I considered where I could move it to as it was a nice dresser and I “should” probably keep it.  Then a thought come over me… and it went something like this, “Are you worried that you might need a dresser (in the future), and I won’t provide one?”  Immediately I felt foolish for wanting to hang onto something that I really didn’t need.  Within five minutes, my neighbors helped me carry the dresser to the curb, and the very moment we set it down, a couple walked by and offered me some money for it.

Then one cool morning, about a week later, I passed a homeless man as I went into Starbucks.  I ordered a small coffee and then looked at the display case, remembered the man, and added a breakfast sandwich. Outside, the man was peering into his coffee cup as I walked up to him and waited for him to look up. When he did, he seemed a bit startled to see someone standing in front of him and acted as if he was expecting me to chastise him.  Instead, I asked, “Would you like a biscuit with bacon?”  He was utterly surprised and he almost moaned with delight as he said, “Oh God.”  After I handed it to him, I wished him a good day and left.  As I walked away, I thought, “It really was God, wasn’t it?”

spaghetti pie with bacon

Spaghetti Pie with Bacon and Peppers for Bill

Images, memories, and voices sprang into my head so often during the year that I gave away pies that sometimes I thought something was wrong if I didn’t feel “moved by the spirit” or “inspired” or “insert your own word for it here.”  On those occasions, I just did my best to make a pretty pie, show up, and hope for the best.  And often, the best did happen – the recipient was genuinely happy for being honored in such a way.

pepper and mushroom quiche

Mushroom and Pepper Quiche for my physical therapist, Heather

It’s been more than four years since I began giving away pies, and while I’ve slowed down quite a bit from making a pie a day to making one every week or so, I truly hope that I can continue to listen to those voices in my head and continue to feel the tugs at my heart.  This project has been a wonderful journey and I hope to be baking pies… and sharing “pie” stories for a long time to come.

spaghetti pie veg.

Spaghetti Pie with Spinach and Caramelized Onions for Ellie

I’d like to close with one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickenson.


If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin,

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.



A Work of Love

30 Apr

Early this month Emile and I made a brief trip to San Diego for a National Cooperative Grocers conference.  Emile went to the NCG meetings while I explored San Diego – walking the beaches, watching the elephants at the zoo, and discovering the beautiful flowers at the Botanical Garden in Balboa Park.  On our last day there we toured the Naval ship USS Midway. I’d never been on an aircraft carrier before and have a newfound appreciation for how my nephew, Wayne, lived for several years while serving in the Navy.  He’s a terrific young man and I’m so very proud of him!

san diego zoo tix

elephant at SD Zooorchid balboa park one

orchid twoThe Midway

Shortly after we returned home, we said goodbye to our “almost” son, Taylor, who left to go to boot camp for the National Guard.  We’ve known Taylor since he was in the fifth grade with our son, Coco.  It was wonderful to see him and spend some time talking together.  We feel so lucky that we are still a part of his life all these years later!

Taylor and Emile

Then there were the pies that were made… such as this Kickass Apple Pie created for a dear friend…

kickass apple pie

… and this Spinach and Pepper Quiche I brought to Leigh, who runs the Ashland Community Resource Center.  He’s able to help so many of those in need… and I am very grateful for his work.

quiche for leigh

There was the Apple Crumb Pie I brought to Opus Radio to honor their longtime DJ, R Charles Snyder, who passed away suddenly. He was a legend here in the Rogue Valley and it’s very hard to believe that he isn’t still with us.  My heart goes out to his family and coworkers… he will be missed.

apple crumb pie

And then there was the pie I made for National Blueberry Pie Day (April 28 – strange since blueberries aren’t usually in season until June!)  This pie was given to a friend who is experiencing a pretty challenging time at work and I want her to know we’re on her side.

blueberry pie

The last pie of the month… another Apple Crumb… was a gift for our friend Alex Palowski.  He is getting ready to retire and this was just a small token to thank him for all that he has done over the years

Looking back over the month,  I am extremely grateful for the many opportunities that I’ve had to show my friends that I care about them.  The gift I’ve given them may look like a pastry… but really it’s much more than that. It’s a work of love.

Love is, above all, the gift of oneself.  Jean Anouilh


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