Archive | January, 2012

Day 300: Lucy

31 Jan

Lucy and her Dolphins

Before we left the apartment today I put together a Chocolate Cream Pie using the same basic custard recipe that I followed yesterday except in today’s batch I added about 4 ounces of chocolate.  Later I tried making whipped cream with what I thought was whipping cream but eventually I figured out that it was closer to half and half (which will never hold a soft peak no matter how long you whip it!).  So until I had whipping cream, I just let the pie set up in the fridge.

Then we took a walk along the beach of Barra de Navidad for the first time since we arrived.  We had heard others mention that in the last week or so there had been an underground (under sea?) earthquake that released some toxic levels of gas which caused thousands of fish to die.   This disaster followed the hurricane that occurred last fall in Barra and caused quite a bit of damage to many of the buildings along the shoreline.

It is hard to understand why some regions experience so much devastation and others seem to go unscathed.  And yet we did not see people complaining at all.  Instead the waiters beckoned us to eat and the vendors set up their wares to sell and somehow the people just carry on as best they can.

After our walk we found a grocer who sold whipping cream and once home I whipped it up and spread it atop the pie.  Finally I found a chocolate bar and grated some of it for the garnish and then we were off to deliver the pie to Lucy.

Lucy runs a restaurant in Barra named appropriately, Lucy’s.  We first met her on our last visit to Barra.  We were introduced to her by our friends Marie and Dale and have enjoyed several cold drinks and the occasional hot meal there.

Lucy has a way of drawing people to her.  She has had guests from around the globe and she has displayed flags from those countries on her wall.  In addition, we saw  she had posted hand-lettered welcome signs to returning visitors.   It’s that kind of thing that keeps her guests coming back year after year – a warm welcome and the knowledge that they have been remembered.

To recognize her for her warmth and hospitality, tonight I brought Lucy the Chocolate Cream Pie.  There is no doubt in my mind that she will share it with her many friends.

I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.  Nancie J. Carmody

 

Day 299: Cynthia

30 Jan

Today we woke up in Barra de Navidad which is a lovely town in the state of Jalisco.  My husband did some research online and found a studio apartment for us to rent which would enable me to make pies while we are on vacation.  Until I find an oven that is available these pies will not be baked but rather “cooked.”

For my first pie in Mexico I chose to make a simple custard pie with shredded coconut.  To begin, we headed to a little store (tienda) and purchased butter, eggs, cream, flour, and vanilla (mantequilla, juevos, crema, harina, y vanilla).  I had brought with me crushed graham cracker crumbs for the crust and shredded coconut for the filling.

We were in a hurry to catch a bus so I asked my husband to assemble the crust.  He did this by using a small saute pan to melt the butter and then he added the graham cracker crumbs and toasted them lightly.  Once that was done, he pressed the crumbs into a pie tin and put it in the fridge to set.

Meanwhile I made coconut custard on the two burner stove that we are lucky to have available.  In mere moments it was thickened and smelled heavenly.  I poured the warm custard into the crust and covered it with plastic (to prevent a skin from forming) and then put it into the fridge.  But before I did that, we snapped a few photos.

Coconut Custard Pie and ingredients

Pie with a View

The View

The finished Pie topped with Toasted Coconut

After a day trip to La Manzanilla (where we saw crocodiles!) and a bus ride home that included a man serenading the passengers with songs like “Besa Me Mucho” we came back to our apartment to find the pie had set up nicely.  I toasted some coconut to decorate the top and brought the pie to Cynthia, the woman who oversees this apartment for the owner.  I tried to explain the pie project to her family in my best Spanish and I think they understood the message – it’s all about showing gratitude.

Jose, Cynthia, and Patty

Hasta manana….

Day 298: Bruce and Jae

29 Jan


Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake Pie

Yesterday I mentioned that I made two pies.  The reason for making the second pie yesterday was because we were leaving for Mexico at 5:00 this morning.  It was certain that I would have  no time to bake before I left, and once I arrived I would be too tired to move, no less bake.

Now that you know that, I want to tell you that I gave the pie (actually my daughter delivered it for me) to Bruce and Jae, a couple of  our neighbors.  They live on the block behind us, our careers are completely different, and their son is a bit younger than our kids. What all of this means is that our paths don’t cross very often and we have a different perspective from which to view the neighborhood and the world really.  But Jae and Bruce are friendly and funny and we enjoy the little time that we do spend with them and that is more than enough of a reason to gift them with a pie.

As I said, we are now in Mexico in a studio apartment without an oven, but with a two burner stove and a refrigerator.  I have brought a few ingredients with me and I have pie recipients in mind.  I just need to open my mind to new pie ideas and ask around to see if I might “rent” an oven when I need one.  A few friends have suggested I take a week off because this might “be too much work”.  But this is a gratitude project after all… and I am so very grateful to have the chance to be here that I will find a way to make pies happen.

Barra de Navidad, Mexico

Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible. Claire Goldberg Moses

Day 297: Eric and Barbie

28 Jan

Today has been a hectic day around my house.  One member of the household was under the weather due toa missing wisdom tooth.  Another was busy at work trying to get ahead.   Still another went to play in the snow.  Then there was me.  My list of chores needed to be tackled and of course, I had a  pie to make.  Actually, I made two.  The second one is for tomorrow.  And I promise to tell you more about that then.

For now, let me just say that I made a lovely Apple Pie for our friends Eric and Barbie.  We were introduced to them by our neighbors and have enjoyed spending time with them and getting to know them over the years.

Barbie has one of the greenest thumbs around and her garden is amazing.  She has thrown together beautiful bouquets in a flash so that I would have flowers for an event.  Eric is a doctor who occasionally performs colonoscopies.

Perhaps you think you have a funny question for him about that test.  Well, I can tell you that you’re not alone.  Everyone asks it… but no, he’s never found a head up there.

For the graceful beauty she brings to all things, and for his wry sense of humor, I made Barbie and Eric an Apple Pie with Heart.  Enjoy!

Day 296: A Pie for a Helpful Friend

27 Jan

Apple Pie

About this time last year I heard a story about pies on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.  The guest spoke about the joy of making pies and encouraged the listening audience to bake a pie and give it to someone they cared about.  It was a cold, wintry day and I thought that baking a pie sounded like a wonderful thing to do and so I inventoried the ingredients that were on hand and began to prepare a marionberry pie.  But who would I give this pie to?

As the pie baked, my thoughts turned to one lady in particular.  She is a member of the church I attend and had recently lost her husband of many years.  If I hoped to bring a bit of joy to someone, then she would surely be the most deserving person.   Several hours later I delivered a warm berry pie to her house.

She called a little bit later to say that her family had been wondering what to have for dinner when my pie arrived and when they saw it they decided that pie for dinner sounded perfect.  Giving away that pie and receiving her thanks was such a great experience and that experience was one of the reasons for the creation of my pie journey.

What has that story got to do with today’s pie?  As it so happens, the lady who received that first (pre-blog) pie recommended today’s recipient.  It seems that this man was especially helpful to her and her husband prior to his death and he has continued to be a help even without her asking.  She told me how very much she appreciates his help and this pie is a way of recognizing him for the care and attention that he has shown.

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
Saint Basil

Day 295: Wedding Pie!

26 Jan

There is a growing trend in the wedding industry to serve pie instead of cake at wedding receptions.  While this is a departure from the tradition of serving cake, it is not a new idea.  A recent blog post by Pie&Ltd. reports that in the 17th century, the Bride’s Pie was in fact very common.  The fillings that they served then are not what we would expect to find in a pie today.  They were savory pies made with sweetbreads, mincemeat or mutton.  As an added surprise, a glass ring was baked inside the pie and it was claimed that the lady who found the ring would be the next to marry.

The tradition of serving pies at weddings gave way to serving cakes by the late 19th century and the customs changed over time as well.  When I was a little girl, my Mom told me that if you put a piece of wedding cake under your pillow, (well wrapped of course!) that you would dream of the person you would marry.  Many times I followed that custom, and the only thing was good about it is that I ate a lot less cake that way.

Today I wanted to create a pie fit for a wedding.  This is how I went about it.  First, I baked gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookies.  Once they were baked and cooled I crushed them in my Cuisinart and pressed them into a pie tin and baked it for 10 minutes.  Next I took the recipe for Decadent Peanut Butter Pie and adjusted it a bit by using real cream instead of whipped topping.  I poured the peanut butter mixture into the cooled pie shell and refrigerated it for about an hour.  Once it was set, I spread cooled ganache over the top of the pie and put it back in the fridge for about half an hour.  Then I topped it with sweetened whipped cream and shaved chocolate.  At last I had a pie fit for a wedding!

This evening I gave a Decadent Peanut Butter Pie to a couple of friends, Ryan and Savannah, for their wedding dinner.  Along with it I sent my very best wishes for a wonderful life together!

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
Mignon McLaughlin

Day 294: International Year of Cooperatives

25 Jan international y.of. coops

 International Year of Cooperatives is intended to raise public awareness of the invaluable contributions of cooperative enterprises to poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The Year will also highlight the strengths of the cooperative business model as an alternative means of doing business and furthering socioeconomic development. From Argentina to Zambia, the 1.4 million co-operatives across the globe will be celebrating and showing how they build a better world. (from the UN website

On October 31 of last year, the United Nations General Assembly launched the International Year of Cooperatives.  Cooperatives are businesses that are owned and managed by their members.  In southern Oregon, there are several cooperatives that you might have noticed: Rogue Federal Credit Union (RFCU), the Grange Coop, Ashland Food Coop, and the Medford Food Coop.  Recently, Bill Meyer of KMED, interviewed managers of those coops on RFCU’s Living Local Blog (hosted by Gene Pelham).  You can link to that interview here.   Two things that I learned from that interview are that those four cooperatives provide jobs for more than 600 people in southern Oregon and they have combined gross sales of $113 million.

Tonight my husband, who manages the Medford Food Coop, was at a coop meeting. I thought I would surprise him and his team with dessert. Shortly after their meeting began, I walked in with a Chocolate Pecan Pie (still warm from the oven) to help them keep up their strength for the tasks at hand.

As I drove home, the aroma of that pie was still present and smelled so delicious, it’s a wonder I was able to give it away at all!

Day 293: Victoria

24 Jan

Victoria and my daughter have been friends since they were in grade school. They were similar in several ways:  they had red hair and freckles, they loved to make art projects, and they were smart and liked to do well in school. Now they are young women who are smart, beautiful, funny, and caring.  When I see them together, I feel optimistic about  the future of the planet.

One day when she was about 5, Victoria came to our house to play.  As dinnertime approached, Alexandra asked Victoria to eat with us.  She said that she needed to ask permission first, so she called home and then reported that her Mom had said it was okay.  After dinner, her Mom, Karen, came to pick Victoria up. She shared that when Victoria had called her she had said, “Mom they’re having macaroni and cheese for dinner… and it didn’t come out of a box.  It’s a casserole!”  I was honored to have been held in such high esteem by a small child.

Tomorrow Victoria will turn 23 years old, so tonight I brought a Chocolate Cream Pie to her house.  I thought it might be nice to start her birthday celebration a bit early since tomorrow’s schedule sounded like it was already pretty full. However, at the time I delivered the pie, I forgot to say this:  “Dear Victoria, may the coming year bring you all the joy and happiness you deserve. Happy, Happy Birthday!”

“Some people make your laugh a little louder, your smile a little brighter, and your life a little better.”— Unknown

 

 

Day 292: Marshall brings Hakatai tiles to Helman School

23 Jan

Marshall Malden showing a mosaic to the class at Helman Elementary

As a member of the Ashland Rotary I have gotten to know quite a few of the local business owners in town.  We see each other at meetings of course but you can really get to know them better if you participate in one or more of the club’s activities.  In our club you might help with the Rotary Garden,  the Rotary Run, or the annual Holiday Dinner to name a few.  In addition, we have something called “The Circle of Friends” where a small number of Rotarians meet once a month at a member’s house or business and share a lunch.  At that time the host tells “the friends” about their business, their family, and their life.

A few years ago, Marshall and I were members of the same circle and one day he hosted the lunch at his place of business, Hakatai Enterprises.  There Marshall told us the story of his career and how he had traveled to many places around the world and how he was now importing glass tiles from China.  After he told us about his life, he took us on a tour of his warehouse and showed us some of the beautiful mosaics that had been made with the tiles.

Near the end of the tour, I saw several boxes of tiles and I asked him if there were ever any tiles leftover after a mosaic had been made.  He said that at times there were and asked why I was interested.  That’s when I told him about my friend Mia, a kindergarten teacher at Helman Elementary.  I told him that she is always on the lookout for things that her students can use for art projects and I knew she would have a field day with those tiles.   That day Marshall sent be off with a box of tiles for Mia.

A week or so ago I emailed Marshall and asked if he would please come to Mia’s class and talk about his tile business and to bring some tiles with him if it was possible.  Marshall wrote that he could come to the class when he returned from a trip and we agreed to meet at Helman School today.

When we arrived Mia was reading a book about the Chinese New Year to her students.  I thought, “We could not have timed this any better!”  After a few moments, Marshall was introduced and he showed the children some examples of the mosaics that had been created using his tiles.  Then he spoke a little about the tile making process and answered questions.  Finally he showed the students the box of glass tiles that he had brought for them.  It was really great to see the kids so engaged.

To thank Marshall for his graciousness and generosity, I had to do something nice for him… and I thought that he might like a Bacon, Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche.  It was the very least I could do to express my gratitude for his kindness.

Day 291: Garth

22 Jan luv shack

Garth lives just a few blocks from us and he is one of the most creative people in town!  We have watched in amazement as he has turned a small, nondescript house with a big yard into an incredible structure surrounded by beautiful gardens and artwork.  This happened over a number of years but bit by bit the corner where he lives has been transformed.   There seems to be no end to his imagination and I find that very inspiring.

The above pictured “luv shack” is also one of his creations and in addition to being a most remarkable piece of art, is also quite functional (maybe you’ve seen it on the highway?)   It has been in the Ashland Fourth of July Parade and made the journey to Burning Man in the Nevada desert.  Here is an excerpt from an article  in the Locals Guide about the creation of the “luv shack” written by Aaron Bloch:  This maverick formed his vehicle first and kept all the functions to a minimum. Gas, brakes, a turn signal or two, were all secondary to what his vision was for the Moonshine Luv Shack.  Pretty amazing, eh?

Tonight I brought a “Kick-Ass Apple Pie (topped with toasted Almonds) to Garth to recognize him for what he has done for our neighborhood – and for being an inspiration to dreamers and tinkerers everywhere.

Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!  ~Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!

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