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!

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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.

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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!

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With Pam Marsh at the “Pie Social”

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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.

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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

So many pies… and so many amazing friends

30 Mar

Something has been bothering me lately… and the “problem” is that I can’t remember all of the pies that I’ve made and given away!  Part of it could be attributed to getting older… or maybe it’s because I don’t write about the pies right away… or maybe that’s just what happens when there are nearly 500 pies to keep track of!

For example, my friend Debbie texted me today and asked if I was available for a walk.  It’s been a while since we’ve texted and I noticed a photo above today’s text. It was a photo she sent a few weeks ago of the gluten-free tart that I’d made for her Dad for his birthday.  Crazy, it was only a month ago… but I’d forgotten all about it!

Debbie's Dad's Birthday Pie

A pie for Ralph’s 85th Birthday

Then last week I made a  pie for a couple that live in my neighborhood.  We used to walk our dogs together YEARS ago and since then we don’t really see each other very often.  The strange thing is that when I found the empty pie plate on my porch yesterday with a note stating “Deeelicous” Thank you, R&L” I was stumped!  It took a little while before I finally remembered who I’d made that pie for… and that’s scary!  After all, it was only last week!

Pie for Rob and Linda

Apple Pie with Heart for Rob and Linda

To be fair, I’ve had a lot going on.  Once a week, I coordinate our church’s homeless shelter. This experience has given me a glimpse into the lives of folks that we might otherwise overlook because we are so caught up in our own “stuff.”  This service is greatly needed and I’m honored to be a small part of it.

Then, for the last month or so, I’ve been helping to cater events at the Ashland Elk’s lodge.  Usually our lodge entertains about 30 events a year, yet this March alone we had seven!  This has been a lot of fun… and I’ve gotten to know some great people in the process, but it has also kept me pretty busy.

However, I wasn’t too busy that I couldn’t bring a pie to a dear friend. A few weeks ago Merry sent a group email to friends and family letting us know that she’d been recently diagnosed with Ovarian cancer.  As soon as I could, I brought her a quiche and as we visited, she shared the story of her friend who had died late last year.  This friend had cancer and when asked what she wanted, she told Merry that she wanted other women to know the symptoms to watch for so that they could be proactive and get help as soon as possible… because with early diagnosis, the chances for recovery are much improved. And leave it to Merry to get that message out there with a bang!

Pie for Merry

Apple pie for Merry and Mike

Yesterday Merry’s story and photo appeared in the Medford Mail Tribune.  I beg you all to read it and share it with the women in your life.  Tell them to be aware of the symptoms for reproductive cancer… and to keep track of them on this symptom calendar and then bring that information to their doctor.  Don’t wait!  As Merry says, these cancers are quiet… but not silent, and the quicker you act, they better your chances.  Our hope is that by sharing this message, women will recognize early that something is wrong and have the confidence to do something.  Please pass this important message along…. and thank you so much for doing so!

Merry and Mike, smiling as always!

“Everyone suffers some injustice in life, and what better motivation than to help others not suffer in the same way.”
Bella Thorne

Life is for the Giving

11 Mar

Hand-painted sign at Gold Beach

A sign on one of the “cat” houses in Gold Beach

It’s hard for me to believe that I used to write a post on this blog EVERYDAY and now I find myself struggling to write once a month! It’s certainly not that I don’t have a lot to share… I just get caught up in the “busy”ness of living and at the end of the day am too tired to write about the moments that I have been blessed to share.

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And there are so many pie stories to tell!  For example, last month, Emile and I took a trip to Gold Beach to have a special dinner at Anna’s by the Sea for Valentine’s Day.  We wanted to thank chef/owner Peter for getting us a reservation on short notice, so we brought along a frangipan tart.  Our drive was truly enhanced/tormented by the aroma of that tart but it was worth it because I think that Peter was pleasantly taken aback by our gift.  I mean, really, who brings dessert to a chef?

Peter's Pie

Then about a month or so ago, a  friend’s wife was diagnosed with lung cancer. This was an “out of nowhere” diagnosis and because the family is so upbeat and courageous, they simply asked for us to pray for them.  Well, I did that, but felt compelled to also bring a Quiche Lorraine. This has been a very difficult journey for this family… and my heart aches for all of them, so in addition to offering prayers I will continue to bring them an array of yummy food (including soup, cake, etc.) until they beg me to stop!

cake for debbiesoup for debbie

Lemon Pound Cake and White Bean and Sausage Soup

A few weeks ago, my friend, Jackie, took photos of me making a quiche. Afterwards, we discussed who I might give it to. We decided to drive downtown and found a man and woman sitting with their dog.  A few minutes later, as I gave them the quiche, Jackie snapped a picture, and we left. Jackie noticed that the couple had just set the quiche aside… but later, as she drove by on her way home, she saw the two of them eating the quiche. Then the next night, as I was opening the doors to our church’s shelter, I noticed the very same couple and asked, “How was the quiche?”  That’s when the woman really looked me and said to her friend, “Hey, It’s the pie lady!”  I have to admit, that was music to my ears!

Giving pie to those in need

Sharing a Quiche on the Plaza

A few Sundays ago, I finally made it to Mt. Ashland for my first ski of the season.  I’ve been having knee trouble so that has been keeping me away… and the ski area is having its own troubles: lack of snow!  Knowing how hard the staff is working to keep the mountain open, I decided to make an apple pie to thank General Manager. Hiram Towle, and his team.  When we got to the mountain, Hiram was not in the office so I left the pie with a note.  It wasn’t until later that I found out where Hiram had been… up a pole trying to fix the Windsor chair lift.  Talk about dedication!

Hiram's PieHiram fixing lift

Apple Pie… and Mt. Ashland General Manager, Hiram Towle, way up on a pole fixing a lift

Most days, you will find me making something or other to give away…. because when I hear that someone is suffering or in need, I feel compelled to help.  Truly, I am very lucky – and very grateful – to be in a position to do this. And at my very core, I know that it is the right thing for me to do.

During my “year of pies” I would sometimes be asked, “You had to make a pie everyday?”  And my answer was always the same… I never “had” to make a pie, rather, I “got” to make one.  And really, we never have to show our friends and neighbors that we appreciate them but we can always choose to do so.  And, for me, that makes all the difference.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” Martin Luther King Jr.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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