Archive | October, 2011

Day 198: Losing a Pet

21 Oct

Apple Pie with Almonds
Earlier this summer, a friend of mine told me that she and her husband had lost their dog to illness. This pet had been a part of their family for so many years and having him suddenly gone continues to be very difficult for them. One of the The hardest things about living with loss is that life continues all around us, and we are expected to move on as well. Even though our hearts ache, the sun continues to rise each day.

Our family lost our dog, Grover, about a year and a half ago. We’d had him for eleven years and he was very much a part of our family. While I knew that he would leave us oneday, I just never thought about “when” that day would come because I knew it would be hard to say goodbye. But even knowing that, I would never have changed my mind about adopting Grover. He brought so much to our family and we’d have missed all that.

Still, there are moments when I tear up just thinking about him. He was a big gentle dog with brown eyes that had a way of melting my heart. I know that my friend’s dog meant the same, or more, to her. I am reminded of a clip I saw of Jimmy Stewart, the actor. He was on the Johhny Carson show in 1981 and he read a poem about his dog. It’s a beautiful tribute to a dear friend.

Today, I baked a “Kickass Apple Pie” and topped it with sugared almonds to give to my friends to let them know that I share their loss and wish them both well.

Grover, me and Coco about 10 years ago

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.
Thomas Campbell

Day 197: Jerry Pariseau

20 Oct

Earlier this year, my husband and I signed up for dance lessons through the First Presbyterian church.  Our friends, Gene and Marilyn, told us about the classes and how much fun they were, and we thought we’d give it a try.  We had taken a dance class only once before in our many years together and it had been fun, but once it ended our dancing days seemed over.

When it came time for these lessons, we were both looking forward to them.  We met our instructor, Jerry Pariseau, and immediately liked him.  Jerry has a business called “Follow my Lead” and he teaches many classes throughout the week. He is patient, funny, and he makes it easy to learn all the different dance moves. We have really enjoyed our time in this class.

What I find remarkable is when I see the men in our class (my husband included) who can do amazing things in the world of work, suddenly look like deer in the headlights because this “dancing” thing is so foreign to them. Jerry will show them the steps to a dance and their eyes all get big and round. But what is really wonderful is that they are all willing to take these dance lessons so that they can spend time holding their wives and moving around to music. That’s pretty special.

Tonight was the last night of our dance lessons and so I brought Jerry an Apple Blueberry Pie. I wanted to thank him for his lighthearted approach to dance – and for making it so easy for us all to “follow his lead.”

Day 196: Chuck and Mardy

19 Oct

Karen and Mardy

About 25 years ago, when we came to Ashland to attend Southern Oregon State College, my husband convinced me to take up a sport.  For some reason, I thought that racquetball would be a good sport to learn and so I signed up.  At the time, I knew little about the sport except that it was played indoors and looked fun.  Then the reality of the sport set in: you play in a closed room with people that are hitting a ball hard – which means someone can get hurt.

What I remember about my first couple of classes is that I never hit the ball at all.  It seemed to always be zooming by me or at me and I never got around to hitting it.  And then one day I was on the court with a few classmates and finally the ball came my way at a speed that I could manage and I hit it!  It was the first time I had ever hit the ball!  My euphoria was short-lived however because one of my teammates turned around to see where the ball had gone… and WHACK! It hit him in the face and knocked off AND BROKE his glasses.  Can you believe it? Instead of being thrilled that I hit the ball I was instead apologizing profusely to Chuck… who was not too taken with me at that time.

Somehow, even after that auspicious beginning, my husband became good friends with Chuck. Maybe Chuck took pity on him for living with a such dangerous woman; I don’t know for sure.  What I do know is that because of their friendship, I became friends with Chuck’s wife Mardy and we’ve been friends ever since.

Mardy and Chuck were there to help us when we moved up to Portland as they had moved up several years earlier.  We stayed with them for a few days while we searched for an apartment and they helped whenever they could with whatever we needed.  Having friends in town made our move quite a bit less stressful.

Mardy helped me out in other ways as well.  She was the one who made my first business card for me.  I’d been catering for friends for a while and Mardy often worked with me, and she kept telling me I needed a business card but I never got around to making  one.  One day she showed up and handed my a few cards that she’d printed for me with the name “Kaleidoscope Katering”.   It was perfect – and finally customers had a way to get in touch with me…. thanks to Mardy.

One of the things that I admire about Chuck and Mardy is that they seem to make the best of a situation.  They both work hard, are willing to take on challenging tasks, and are incredibly flexible.  Where someone else might be deterred, they seem to find a way to make things work out.  It’s really inspiring.

We moved back to Ashland in 1995 but have maintained our relationship with Chuck and Mardy.  Sometimes they travel down to see us; more often, we travel north and stay with them.  Last evening we arrived in Portland after leaving the coast and spent the evening at their lovely condo.  We decided to go out to eat and found ourselves at The Oregon Culinary Institute where we enjoyed a wonderful four course meal.  After dinner, Mardy and I went to the store to buy a few ingredients for a pie and early this morning I got up to make that pie.

Pie ingredients with Chuck in the background

While the pie baked, Chuck and Emile played a game of chess… while I snapped a few shots of the view from their living room.

Emile and Chuck

The view north

Once the pie was finally done, I left it to cool on their marble countertop.   I hope they know how grateful we are for all they have done for us.  We are very happy to have met them and become friends, and except for that tiny incident with the racquetball, I think Chuck would agree.

Apple Crumb Crust Pie

Day 195: Shirley

18 Oct

We are still on vacation… and left Newport today to head into Portland, OR.   But before we leave Newport, let me tell you that the weather on the coast this weekend was SPECTACULAR!!!  Here is a photo I took of my husband and our friends near the beach this morning:

Yesterday I talked about how Bonnie Good found me a place to bake my pies in Newport, Oregon.  And I don’t know how she found me a place to bake those pies – or what words she used to persuade anyone.    When we talked later in the day, Bonnie told me that she had spoken to Shirley who works at the senior center in Newport and she told her that I needed a place to bake my pies.  And Shirley said I could come on over.  She seemed to “get” this pie project and thought it made perfect sense.  Bonnie thought that was just wonderful… as did I.

So, yesterday, I baked two pies at the senior center.  One of those pies I gave to Bonnie because she was kind enough to find me a place to bake… and she did not have to do that.  But she did.  And that meant so much… that she was willing to help me on my pie journey.

And the second pie… today’s pie, was given to Shirley, the person who manages the senior center kitchen.  Shirley told me that she had some folks in mind for the pie I had made and she knew how much they would appreciate it.

What was so wonderful about these two women was that they were taken with my project and really wanted to help me succeed.  Shirley showed me the kitchen and let me bake my pies… and Bonnie lead me to Shirley.  What luck I had in  finding these two women… without them I would have had trouble completing my mission.

Yesterday afternoon I got a note card from Bonnie.  Inside she had written “It’s not always better to give than receive.  The pie was delicious!”  Thank you Bonnie… and Shirley… for your trust, for your willingness to help another person, for your compassion.   I wish you both the very best.

Day 194: Bonnie Good

17 Oct


Yesterday, we arrived in Newport, OR.  I had hoped that I would be able to bake my pies at the hotel where we were staying, but unfortunately, this was not possible.
With the help of a lady named Bonnie Good, image

I was able to find a place to bake a few pies.
I am so glad that Bonnie saw the purity of this project and was willing to help me accomplish my goal.  She is a gem and I am so happy to have met her.
This afternoon, I delivered a warm Apple Craisin Pie to Bonnie.  I wish her the very best and thank her from the bottom of my heart for her assistance in this endeavor.

Day 193: Sydney and Rhoda

16 Oct

We are in Newport, Or tonight.  We left Eugene in the fog this morning and traveled along a series of roads to the coast.  The weather eventually changed from cool and foggy to sunshine and clear blue skies… Really a perfect day.
We are staying at The Sylvia Beach Hotel and have just retired to the JK Rowling room (our suite) decorated with all the things Harry Potter would have had at school (including a broom and goggles!)
And since I knew I would be on the road today I baked an additional (Pecan) pie yesterday and asked my daughter to deliver it for me.  The couple I chose as recipients are from the First Presbyterian church and their names are Sydney and Rhoda.  I don’t know them well but I admire the  gentleness of their manner and speech and appreciate the gracefulness they bring with them.
This afternoon, my daughter called to say that Rhoda told her that Pecan Pie was one of their favorites. I was moved to tears for two reasons: first because I was happy that they were pleased and secondly, because I could not have known their favorite pie.
I am humbled, amazed and sometimes overwhelmed by how often this pie path has a way of working out so perfectly. 

A question for my readers

16 Oct

We are traveling to Newport, Oregon today and we plan to stay at the Sylvia Beach Hotel.  We will ask if I can bake a couple of pies there… and I hope they will let me.  However, if that fails, I wanted to ask if anyone knows anyone in Newport who might be willing to let me bake in their kitchen.  I have pie dough ready… and pie tins.  I will pick up fruit on the way.  And the person who lets me use their kitchen may keep the pie… or designate the pie recipient.  Remember, this journey is all about giving.  By the way, today’s pie is baked already and will be delivered later.  What I need is a berth for baking tomorrow.

You can email me on this blog or at

Thanks for thinking about this… and I wish you all a lovely Sunday.

Pie it forward,

The (crazy?) pie lady

Day 192: Vacation

15 Oct

We are traveling for a few days and tonight I tried to send my post via using my phone from Autzen Stadium while watching a Duck’s game.  It was messy…  Here is the edited version.

Today is the first day of vacation for my husband.  Yes, he has had days off, but this is the beginning of a whole week away from work.

However, before we could leave, I needed to make a wedding cake. I’ve been planning this cake for months with the brides Mom and Aunt and finally the day had arrived.

Here is what the cake looked like:

Now we are at a Ducks football game (and I didn’t even know ducks played football!) and they are winning!  Final score:  41-27 – Go Ducks!

And before I left town,  I brought the pie of the day (apple raisin)  to a man celebrating his 90th birthday.  L’chaim!


Day 191: Ramiro and Beatriz

14 Oct

We met Ramiro and Beatriz Padilla from El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant more than ten years ago. Our family would go to their restaurant after skiing on Sundays at Mt. Ashland. We liked the atmosphere, the friendly service, and the fact that El Tapatio was family owned. It became a sort of ritual for us and we enjoyed being among the “regular” customers.

Over time, Ramiro and his family have become more and more involved in our community: Ramiro is an active member of the Ashland Rotary Club, the Padilla family organizes a huge entry in the Fourth of July parade every year, complete with participants outfitted in traditional Mexican dress and caballeros on horseback, and El Tapatio has donated food to such activities as the Ashland Schools Foundation calling nights and the Ashland High School Senior All Night.

Since it had been a while since we visited El Tapatio, and several years since all four of us (me, Emile, Alexandra and Coco) had the chance to go together, Alexandra offered to treat us all to dinner tonight. It was fun to sip Margaritas, listen to the guitar music and share a family dinner.

Tonight I brought Ramiro and Beatriz an Apple Pie to congratulate them on the birth of their baby daughter, Beatriz, and also to thank them for always making us feel like part of the family.

Day 190: Chef Jesse

13 Oct

We met Jesse more than 25 years ago at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. A few days ago, my husband Emile and I attended a local chapter meeting of the American Culinary Federation. Jesse is currently the chairman of the board of the Southern Oregon Chapter and has been involved in this organization in way one or another for many years.

Jesse is a culinary professional, as is his wife Leslie. They are both are involved in a program called Prostart that helps young people gain culinary and managerial skills while still in high school. It is such a great program and I am glad that they are both dedicated to making sure that our future chefs succeed.

While we were at that meeting the other day, I found out that today is Jesse’s birthday and it just seemed right to bring him a pie to celebrate. Early this afternoon I prepped some Macintosh apples (my favorites!) and then added some blueberries to the mix and this is what it looked like:

Once this mixture was in the prepared crust, I topped it off with an oatmeal crumb topping. It baked for about an hour and this is what it looked like when it was done:

When I delivered this pie to Jesse, I met his Mom, Sheila, his three dogs, and was given a tour of his home. Jesse also insisted on giving me a few gifts: homemade sauerkraut and homemade garlic dill pickles. It is funny how this gift of giving has a way of bringing gifts to me as well.

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I’m always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme

The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star.
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin


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