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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

Living On Mexico Time

4 Feb

Emile and I were lucky to have had the chance to spend almost two weeks in Barra de Navidad, Mexico and have just recently returned from that trip.  It was a wonderfully relaxing time for both of  us – we enjoyed long walks, swimming in a warm ocean, catching up with old friends, and making new ones.

This is a blog about gratitude and so I thought I would share photos of a few of the reasons I have to be grateful.

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Having the chance to see cool and unusual creatures!

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Spending time with dear friends.

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Being able to bring supplies to the local school.

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Watching as our favorite beach was undergoing much needed restoration.

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and then thanking the backhoe operator for his hard work with a Coconut Cream Pie!

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Finding our old friend, Jose of the Malecon, at his new workplace!

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Playing Scrabble or Bananas with Emile almost daily!

karen-emile

Delivering one last Chocolate Cream Pie for our “hostess” Cynthia on the day we left.

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And lastly, having a warm safe place to come home to.  Many thanks to the good neighbors that watched over our home and our fluffy kitty while we were away.  We’re both so grateful that we were able to take some time to unwind… and very thankful to have been missed while we were gone. We’re lucky ducks to be sure.

As we sat in the airport in Los Angelos awaiting our flight, I was texting with my son, Coco, and in trying to explain the affinity I feel for Mexico  (the people, the weather, the food, and the bright colors everywhere), I said, “I think I was Mexican in a past life” and he wrote back, “Mom, I think you’re still Mexican!”   You know, he just might be right.

A wise man travels to discover himself.  James Russell Lowell

Take vacations… go as many places as you can.  You can always make money; you can’t always make memories.  Unknown

 

 

Is it Give to Get…. or Get to Give?

17 Jan P1030484

A few days ago, a man wrote to me to say that he was putting together a book of tales about unselfish acts and he wanted to include my “pie project” in the book.  I was honored to be thought of in that light… but what I wanted to say to him was this: I don’t really think that I qualify!

Before I explain, let me share a few stories with you.

Last summer I was privileged to cater a wedding for a wonderful couple.  The reception hall was bustling with activity and with minutes to go before the guests arrived, I took a moment to put the finishing touches on the buffet.  Without warning, a woman I’d never met approached me and quietly asked if she could tell me something.  “Oh dear!” I thought. “What could possibly be wrong?” and then I turned to her and said, “Sure” hoping that it was a problem I could fix quickly.

The woman then told me that I had brought her a pie two years before.  When she explained where she worked, her story came back to me.  Her friend had recommended her to me because she was a hard worker, extremely considerate to guests, and at the time, she was pretty far along in her pregnancy.  I’d tried to bring the pie to her directly, but Ava was busy working somewhere in the hotel and could not be located.  That night I left the pie without ever meeting her.

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One of my favorite combinations – love and quiches!

As Ava told me how much my pie had meant to her, I was overwhelmed with emotion (no surprise, eh?).  To be truthful, I still had a full night’s work ahead of me, and was already tired, but I was also deeply touched that my simple gift had had such an impact.

Fast forward to a few days ago.  An email arrived with sad news: a friend of my husband’s had lost his wife to cancer. Immediately, we shared our condolences and asked if there was anything we could do.  A message came back announcing when the service was to be held.  Knowing that we would not be able to attend, I explained that I would like to bring a pie… to show our concern and to give Ron something to share with the family and friends that would soon be with him.

My plan had been to bring the pie to Ron’s office and leave it for him, but when I arrived, I found him busy at his desk. I knocked gently on his door and he looked up at me.  I could tell that he was trying to figure out how he knew me and so I introduced myself and gave him the pie. Then Ron said something that surprised me… it was something like this, “I’ve aspired to get one of your pies” and then he asked if he could give me a hug.  Somehow I found my way out of his workplace without crying, but once outside, my tears flowed freely.  I felt so grateful to have acted upon my intuition and given him that pie.

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Kick-Ass Apple Almond Pie

Now let’s go back to the beginning of this post and address the word “unselfish.” Over the last few years, I have been on the receiving end of an abundance of good feelings and heartfelt emotions because of this “pie project” that I would not have earned otherwise. Truly, I would not trade those experiences for anything!  In a way, I think I have been rather “selfish” because I keep making pies because I really love “getting” those good feelings!

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Gluten-free Raisin Nut Cookies – a gift for a friend

We’ll see if my story makes it into the book… but it may not.  It really doesn’t matter.  What’s more important is that I have been able to share so many amazing moments with friends, family, and strangers because of something that comes naturally to me… and I can’t state this enough: If you are able to give of yourself, do so.  You can give no greater gift… and there is no telling the good you may receive!

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“To whom much is given, much will be required.”  Luke 12:48

“There is a magnet in your heart that will attract true friends.  That magnet is unselfishness, thinking of others first; when you learn to live for others, they will live for you.”  Paramahansa Yogananda

 

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

29 Dec

Babycakes Cookies

Babycake’s Chocolate Chip Cookies – gluten free and vegan! Try them… they’re so good!!!

I know that I’ve said this before, but how can another month have gone by?  Do you feel as I do… that it took forever for Thanksgiving to arrive and then before you knew it, Christmas had come and gone and now you are facing a brand new year?  It seems that if you listen you can almost hear the “whoosh” as time flies by!

Coco's rolls

Rolls made by our son, Coco

And because I believe that’s true, I think it’s so important to do all that you can to really be there for the people you love.  Our time here is limited and yet most of us act as if we have all the time in the world. We only “get it” when disease or disaster strikes and then we realize how precious our time is.

my rolls

Potato rolls I made for Thanksgiving

I’m reminded of the play, Our Town, where the young wife, Emily, after having died returns to earth for one day.  She finds the experience of going home again very painful and asks the stage manager if anyone realizes how beautiful life is while they live it.  He tells her, “No. The saints and poets, maybe – they do some.”

If I can wish you anything at all for the coming year, other than the usual greetings, it is that you take a moment or two to really look around at the simple beauty that surrounds you and soak it in. Hug your family and friends every chance you get. Don’t let them wonder for even one minute about your love.

Then, if you can, take a glance beyond your own life and offer a hand to someone in need, sit with a friend who is grieving, adopt your new best friend from the animal shelter.  Or you could do what works for me: Make a pie and give it away.  You won’t regret it.

pie

Nobody on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.

Rabbi Harold Kushner

 

 

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