Archive | December, 2011

Day 259: Karyn’s Quiche

21 Dec

Yesterday was a pretty hectic day, culminating in my catering a 50th Anniversary Party for a friend. After such a busy day, I knew that I needed to get busy making a pie early in the day because I wasn’t sure how long my energy would hold out.

With temperatures in the high twenties (28 when I woke up!) I thought making a quiche sounded like a good (and warm!) idea and so I gathered together these ingredients: italian sausage, mushrooms, peppers, and sharp cheddar cheese. In no time at all I had the quiche in the oven and then prepared to run my errands.

One of those errands involved bringing a gift of cat food to Rhonda at the Ashland Elk’s Lodge. Rhonda does pet therapy with veterans at the domiciliary in White City and she promised that she would bring my gift to a man out there who has a cat named Pearl. I thought that Rhonda would be a perfect pie recipient but I had a nagging suspicion that she was a vegetarian.

When I got to the Lodge I saw Karyn in the office and she told me that Rhonda was already there. I thanked her and went off to find Rhonda. When I did locate her I gave her the cat food and showed her the quiche and my suspicions were confirmed: Rhonda is a vegetarian! Even though she could not eat the pie, Rhonda smiled and told me that she would find someone special to give it to. And I knew that she would find just the right person… because she is really good at that!

Later today I received an email from Karyn. She told me that she had been feeling like she was in the doldrums this morning and she was delighted when Rhonda gifted the quiche I had made to her. What a great choice Rhonda! I think that Karyn is the glue that holds our lodge together and she certainly deserves a pie! Thank you Karyn for the work you do for the Ashland Elks… and thank you Rhonda for your caring and perceptive spirit.

Day 258: Barbara again!

20 Dec

How funny that I have made a pie for three Barbara’s in a row! Today’s Barbara was suggested to me by my friend Jack. He mentioned that he held this lady in high esteem because she did the right thing “just because” it was the right thing to do.

I think that when we see people doing the “right thing” we notice it… because really, nowadays, it’s not very common. Just a few days ago someone said to me, “whatever happened to people with a conscience?” A conscience… wow. Wasn’t that who Jiminy Cricket was for Pinocchio?

I remember when I was about 7 years old and I was sitting in the living room of my mother’s friend’s house. There on the coffee table was a silver dime… and I don’t know what made me do it, but I took it. And from the scolding I got you would have thought that I had stolen all the gold from Fort Knox! Did that teach me a lesson? You better believe it did!

Many years later, on a shopping excursion with my two small children, I was able to instill that lesson once again. As I was paying at the cashier I noticed that my daughter was acting a bit strangely but could not discern what was going on. That was until we stepped outside the store and I noticed that her pocket was “full”. I asked what she had in her pocket and she said, “nothing!”

Then I reached into her pocket and took out a small bag of candy. She seemed incredulous… as if it had appeared there by magic. I marched her right back into the store to the same register and waited for the cashier so that I could return the candy. When he finally did recognize me and heard my story, “I am so sorry… but my daughter took this candy “by accident”…” he said, “oh, it’s okay.” And it took a lot for me to say, “No. It is not okay. My daughter took this candy without paying and she is very sorry for doing that and (glaring at her) she will never do that again!”

I think that if there were more people out there who had Mama’s who held their feet to the fire, well maybe there would be more people feeling a little bit more accountable. Maybe there would be less crime… or maybe we would be more considerate of one another. It just makes sense that we all need to be held accountable for what we do; we all need to have a conscience. And it’s likely that ours won’t be as cute as Jiminy Cricket, but if it helps us to do the right thing, well, that’s more than good enough.

Day 257: Another Barbara

19 Dec

It was many years ago when we met Barbara and her husband Bill for the first time. We became acquainted with them through our relatives, and liked them immediately. One of my fondest memories of them was when I told Barbara and Bill that I was going back to Staten Island for a week with my kids, and that I had no one to tend to the rabbit that we had at the time. Then Barb and Bill said that they would watch our rabbit for us. Now I ask you, who does that? Not many, and I was really touched that they really were willing to watch our rabbit (at their house no less!) for us while we were away.

Not only did they watch our rabbit… but Bill built him a hutch while we were gone! It was such a gift to us… and our bunny… and I will always remember the thoughtfulness of that gift.

A few years ago Bill passed away and then Barbara moved back to Ohio to be closer to her family. Though I understood her reasons for leaving, I missed seeing her smiling face. And then Barb decided to move back to Ashland and I thought, “How wonderful for us that she is here!”

Yesterday a friend told me that Barb was experiencing some pain and she was also having trouble getting around. I offered to bring her a quiche and so today I prepared one with spinach, red pepper and white cheddar cheese. I wanted to send something that was tasty but also contained ingredients that might enhance her strength. And of course, I put in as much love as I could for Barb is a very gracious lady and also a good friend.

Day 256: Barbara

18 Dec

Sometimes a pie recipient comes to me by way of recommendation and, while that is true of today’s recipient, Barbara was on my list all along. Barbara is a member of my church, First Presbyterian of Ashland, and she is so involved that I needed to recognize her.

One of her many talents is creating flower arrangements. They are exquisitely crafted and to look at her you’d never know how much effort she puts into them for Barbara always looks cool, calm and collected. How she does it I don’t know. This past spring I attended a meeting where Barbara had designed the tabletop decorations. I was in awe of how she had taken a few sea shells and some other simple items and had made gorgeous centerpieces for each table. When I mentioned how lovely they were, Barbara was so humble. She was just sharing her gifts with us and that was that.

At one point I asked Barbara if she would consider giving a demonstration of her flower arranging skills – because I for one would love to be able to do what she does – and she shook her head as if to say , “It’s nothing really.” But I think that perhaps Barbara doesn’t know how amazingly talented she really is or how much we value the gifts that she brings to all the tasks that she takes on. I for one would be thrilled if she would share what she knows with the rest of the women in the church community.

Today I made an Apple Raisin Lattice Top pie for Barbara to thank her for all that she does so graciously for others without ever expecting anything in return. She is a wonderful role model and I hope that she knows how much we all appreciate her kind and giving spirit.

Day 255: Jackson County Animal Shelter

17 Dec

If you know me at all, you know that we once had a dog named Grover. Grover had been “dropped off” at the Jackson County Animal Shelter and he waited months to be adopted. We were fortunate that the folks at the shelter had a soft spot in their hearts for Grover and let him stay there a long time waiting for a family.

The funny thing is that I always thought that I would adopt a black lab puppy. They were so cute and playful when I saw them at the recycling center where they were being displayed by Tim Church. And it was Tim who told me that I should not adopt a puppy… for my life was too busy. A puppy needs training and consistency and at that time of my life, I could not have given those things to a puppy. Instead, I was able to give a warm, safe home to Grover and while he never learned a trick, he was the most grateful dog on the planet.

At this time, Emile and I are babysitting a dog that my daughter brought from Denmark. He is needy beyond belief and demands more patience than I can muster at times. But deep down, Emile and I are both softies at heart. We know that this dog’s master died earlier this year and that he is doing his best to figure things out. He puts up a good front, but I think that all he wants to know that he is not going to be left alone. Maybe it’s what we all are hoping for.

Today I brought a Chocolate Pecan Pie to the staff at the Jackson County Animal Shelter to honor them for the work that they do day after day. I am so grateful that they cared for Grover until we took him in… and I also want to thank them for doing their best with all the animals that come to them.

Day 254: Remembering Irene

16 Dec

When we moved to Portland, my daughter Alexandra was just about two. We lived in an apartment in a residential neighborhood in the southeast section of the city. Behind our apartment was a house where Irene and Victor lived and occasionally we would see them out in their garden in the evening. One day I went out into our very small backyard with Alex and Irene came over to the fence to meet us. While we were chatting, Victor walked over to the fence carrying a tomato he had just picked. He was looking at Alex and me when suddenly Irene said “Victor, give her that tomato!” I could tell by the look on his face that Victor was confused. He must have been thinking, “I thought I just picked that tomato from my garden” but yet there was Irene telling him to give it to Alex. In any case, that was the day our friendship with Irene and Victor began.

When I met Irene she was 86 years old… and I knew her until she died at nearly 104. My own mother had died just two years before we met, and Irene helped to fill the empty place in my heart almost immediately. Often I would get up early before my husband left for work and go over to Irene’s in my pajamas and have a cup of coffee with her and Victor. He was a year or two older than Irene and had already had a stroke by the time I met him. This sometimes affected his speech but not his spirit.

One really interesting fact about Irene and Victor is that they were both married to other people for nearly 50 years before they were married. What surprised me is how much they loved and appreciated each other – as if they had waited all those years for true love to come along – and it finally did!

I caught a glimpse of that bond as I sat with them one morning. Irene was telling a story when suddenly Victor tried to say something. When he was excited he could not speak, because of the stroke, and was making sounds like “ba ba ba” as he tried to tell her what was on his mind. Irene calmly looked at him and said, “You are remembering about your brother… and continued on with what she knew Victor was trying to say. When I looked back at Victor he was nodding, tears streaming down his face, because she was right. Of course by then tears were streaming down my face as well because I had witnessed this tender moment.

Today I was thinking about Irene and missing her and thought I would bring a pie to Irene’s niece, Shirley. Though I’d never been to her house, I just took a chance that she would be home… and I was lucky because she was. We sat and talked for a while and I learned that she has recently been through a very difficult time. And then she told me that tomorrow she and her husband will celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary. How fortunate that I was able to bring a pie in time to celebrate that amazing milestone. It was when I was driving home that I wondered if perhaps Irene had been whispering in my ear to go and visit her niece and send her love. At least I’d like to think it could have had something to do with her.

Day 253: Valerie

15 Dec

After so many days of making sweet pies I thought it would be fun to make a quiche. I gathered up my ingredients and sauteed the vegetables and prepared the crust and when I looked at the ensemble I knew I needed to take a photo.

As for the pie recipient, well, I’d been planning to bring a pie to this lady for a while. She is a teacher at Helman Elementary and a good one at that. In addition to teaching, she also grows beautiful flowers and dries them and then she creates amazing wreaths from them.

I wish that I could give you a link to a website with photos of the wreaths that Valerie has made because they are all one of a kind masterpieces. But Valerie is like me in that she is so busy making her art that she neglects a few of the other aspects of the business of making wreaths (taking photos, making the website, etc.) As for me, I have made hundreds of cakes, but I have only a few dozen photos of cakes to show… and this needs to change.

When I talked with Valerie about this, I asked her to keep after me to develop a website and I would keep after her. Yet time has gone by and we haven’t kept our word. Who will take the photos of our work and get them online if we don’t?

It reminds me of the warning that the stewards give on the airline about putting your own air mask on first before helping anyone else with theirs (including your children!) That always seemed contrary to what I would want to do… but it makes sense, for how can you help someone else if you aren’t breathing properly?

Today I brought Valerie a warm Broccoli Cheddar Quiche. I want to acknowledge her for the remarkable talent that she possesses and I want to encourage her to find a way to display her art to a larger audience. It’s that good.

Day 252: Happy 10th Birthday!

14 Dec

Today is the birthday of my niece Ella. When she was a toddler her Mom would bring her to work and Ella would sit by my workbench as I baked bread. She was tickled if I gave her a piece of dough to play with and seemed to enjoy watching the goings on in the kitchen.

One thing I remember from those early days is that Ella didn’t talk much. I guess that’s true for second born children – their older siblings speak for them and they don’t have to work hard to communicate. My son, who is the second born in our family, didn’t talk much when he was 2 or 3 because his sister did that for him. Sometimes the conversation went like this, (Alexandra speaking) “Coco wants a cookie” and all the while Coco was sitting silently, watching with wide eyes as the situation unfolded.

Though I don’t see Ella very often, I try to find ways to let her know that I am thinking of her. In the past I have given her baking paraphernalia and she seemed to like that and so tonight I extended an offer of a pie baking lesson. It would be fun to share my love of baking and perhaps a baking tip or two. But for tonight, I brought a warm Apple Crumb Pie to Ella to celebrate the end of her first decade on this lovely planet. May all of her days be happy and bright.

“There was a star danced, and under that was I born.” - William Shakespeare

Day 251: A First

13 Dec

My friend Caroline asked me to bring a pie to her neighbor. She said that this woman had experienced difficult times and she wanted to send her something good. I told her that I thought it was a wonderful idea and would plan to bring a pie to her neighbor in the next few days.

This afternoon I called Caroline to ask if today might be a good day to bring a pie to her neighbor. Caroline answered yes and I put the still warm apple pie in my pickup to bring to her neighbor. When I arrived, I took the pie to her neighbor’s house and knocked at the door.

The woman who answered the door showed no expression. I immediately told her that her neighbor Caroline had suggested that I might bring her a pie to brighten her day because she had recently experienced some difficult times. And the lady who answered the door told me that she and her husband would not eat the pie. I explained to her my pie project and that Caroline had sincerely wanted to help her and that was the reason for the gift of the pie… and the lady acknowledged the gift but refused it and closed the door.

This was the first time in 251 days that my pie has been refused. I suppose I should have seen it coming but I did not. Instead I was surprised. But all I could think was “how sad”. That woman had been given a gift and she could not accept it. What must have happened in her life for her to refuse the kindness of strangers?

After the pie was refused I returned to Caroline and told her what had happened. I explained that it was the first time I had experienced a refusal of a pie. We were silent for a moment and then Caroline said, “Have you seen the man who sings Christmas Carols all day at Bi-Mart?” I had to admit that I had not seen him. Caroline asked if I would bring him the pie and of course I said “Yes.”

A few moments later I walked up to a man who was singing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” while he was collecting money for the Salvation Army. I told him about my pie journey and offered him the pie and he gladly accepted it and I couldn’t help but think that the ability to accept a gift is a blessing in itself. This man did not know me at all but was willing to take a gift from me. To me that says that he still has hope for the human race… that he still believes that people can be good. And that was something that Caroline’s neighbor could not do.

Tonight I send my best wishes to Alan, the man who accepted a pie from a total stranger and knew that it was sent with good intentions. And I also send prayers to the neighbor who could not accept the gift of a pie, for she must have lived a darker life than I can even imagine. I hope that she is able to someday find peace.

Day 250: Another International Pie!

12 Dec


Last evening my daughter Alexandra was packing her bags to get ready for her flight to Denmark today. We watched her pack the gifts that she bought for her friends and then watched her weigh the bag after each addition because she was worried that she might go over the airline’s weight limit.

While that was going on in the back room, I got busy in the kitchen. I prepared pie dough – this time with no whole wheat flour – and made the crust and placed it in the pie tin. Then for the first time, I used my new ceramic “pie beans” to pre-bake the crust – a gift from my friend Gina. Once the crust was done, I let it cool on the counter while I prepared brownie batter. Then, in a flash, the brownie pie was in the oven.

After the pie was done, I let it cool and then wrapped it in plastic wrap and placed it in the freezer so that it would be firm enough for travel. And about this time, the pie is in a bag next to Alex and she should be somewhere near Greenland, hopefully fast asleep.

This brownie pie is a gift for her boyfriend Kristian, and his father Ole. They have both been hinting about getting a pie since this pie voyage began but I was hesitant to send one in the mail as it might have taken seven days and that would never do. After all, when I visited Denmark last December Ole spent hours preparing a fabulous feast for Alex and me that was topped off with a traditional Danish dessert called Ris ala mande.

What is special about this dessert is that there is a whole almond hidden in the pudding and the person who finds it receives an extra gift.  Well, neither Alex or I knew that and found it peculiar that Ole kept serving the pudding and then taking it back before we had a chance to eat it.  It seems he had forgotten which plate contained the extra almonds (yes he had hidden two!) and he wasn’t satisfied until Alex and I both found an almond in our pudding.   For “finding” the almonds, Ole gave us each a small box of chocolates.  It was so silly but so sweet to include us in this tradition.

Ole took this photo of us enjoying Ris ala Mande using a tripod.

Today, I sent Ole and Kristian  a Brownie Pie with lots of  love and good wishes for the holidays…. and for the years to come.


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