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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!

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

Rabbi Harold Kushner

 

 

What happened to November???

2 Dec

So much has happened in the last month!  I’m chagrined that I did not write once in November but hope to explain that I was not off on vacation.  It’s been a time of loss for several of my dear friends and as they are traveling their road I have tried to help in the ways that I know how. For me that means bringing soup, being there to listen, and of course, by offering pies.  Pies, in and of themselves, are not going to do much to assuage the pain of loss.  However, if my friends feel a little more loved for a while, then my efforts have been well worth it.

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Another reason I did not have time to write this past month was due to a different kind of loss.  In early November I helped my Dad move back to Florida.  He had lived there for almost twenty years before he had a stroke in March of 2013. After three trips to Florida that Spring I decided that he needed to come back to Oregon with me.  My goal was to be able to take care of him AND (try to) live my life.  To my great dismay, that plan did not work out.  My Dad did not like being in Oregon and longed to be back in Florida near his girlfriend.  After much deliberation, and with the blessing of his doctor and his social worker, I arranged for my Dad to move to the same facility where his girlfriend lives.  Friends ask, “Is your Dad happy now?” and I answer, “I think so” but what I know for certain was that he was not happy here with me.  Knowing that makes me a little sad but I have to honor his choice.  It is, after all, his life.

Before I left Florida, I made sure to bring a Pumpkin Pie to the woman in charge of the kitchen in my Dad’s building.  It was a way to thank her in advance for her care and attention.  Then I made some Pecan Shortbread cookies for the director of Nursing.  It is my hope that they will help her to think fondly of my Dad.

Pie and Cookies for Brookdale

The rest of the month is a bit of a blur.  A few days after I came back from Florida was the first night of the season for our church’s homeless shelter which I am helping to coordinate.  It’s my first time in this role and I am humbled to be able to help those in need in a tangible way and honored to work together with all the caring people who make this shelter possible.

Then last week, I helped Ashland High School Nordic Team bake 42 pies to raise funds for ski equipment.  It was a long day but it was fun to work together with friends helping our student athletes.  As you can imagine, the church kitchen smelled absolutely delicious afterwards!  I could not imagine leaving that wonderful aroma in the room without also leaving some food, so I took some of the leftover apples and put together a quick cobbler for our shelter guests.  I found this note when I came the next day

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That simple note made my day!  I believe that kindness is something we can all give to one another.  Often the cost to us is minimal, but the difference it can make in the lives of those around us is immeasurable.  I’d love to hear your stories of how an act of kindness made your day… either as the giver or the receiver.  Your story might inspire someone to do something they might not otherwise have done…. at least that is my hope!

Blessings!

“My religion is very simple.  My religion is kindness.”  The Dalai Lama

parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme

Lastly I wanted to share a photo taken on Thanksgiving as my husband was cooking.  My son called this our family’s idea of “being funny.”

A Week with my Daughter

22 Oct

This has been a pretty exciting month for me!  Much of that excitement was because I was able to go to New York to visit my daughter for her 26th birthday. Alexandra has been living in New York since a week before Hurricane Sandy hit the city… and while I don’t think that these two events are in any way related, let’s just say that my daughter has an energy that can rival any storm out there.

For one week I was able to become a part of Alex’s world…. and that was absolutely fabulous!  During that week I met many of Alex’s friends.  On the first night I met Rocye… who welcomed me by running up to me, shouting “Mom!” and giving me a big hug.  Later, I met Noah and Breeane, and saw her old friends Josh and Mary.  Finally, I met Alex’s co-workers!  At home, sometimes I find myself wondering about the people Alex hangs with and all I can say is that I was really happy to see her surrounded by such great people.

During that “fabulous” week so much happened!  First, Alexandra adopted a pomeranian-chow mix named, Bennet.  He is very cute and fairly mellow for such a small dog.  He, like Alex, appears fearless and I am thrilled that they have found each other!

Alex and Bennet

Secondly, I was able to see three plays for less than $100 (total!!!)…  and my sister, Janice, saw two of them with me! Those of you that know me will not be surprised when I say that all of three of the shows moved me to tears (If/Then, Jersey Boys, and Kinky Boots).  They were all amazing and I felt so very lucky to see them.

Lastly, I was able to spend a lot of time with Alexandra…   just being together… and of course, that was wonderful.  My only regret is that I was not able to see other relatives and friends while I was back east. In fact, I never even made it to Staten Island! That’s the first time that’s happened… ever!

And as you might guess,  I managed to make a few pies while in New York.  Both were made with McIntosh apples because they are my all-time favorite apple and I loved seeing them at every corner grocery store.  My first pie was delivered to the man whose work office is located close to Alex’s apartment.  I thanked Tony for looking out for Alex and am grateful that there is someone there who can!

Tony's pie

The second pie, a gluten-free version of the first, was delivered to Alex’s co-workers at Warby Parker.  I think her friends were a bit surprised by the pie… but not for long.  Somehow before we left most of the pie had disappeared… and that was a very nice compliment indeed.

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The last pie I made was more like a tart… and it was made so that Alexandra could have dinner ready and waiting for her after she came home from work on the day I was leaving. I guess I wanted to leave her knowing that though I was gone, something was there to remind her that she was much-loved.

roasted pepper pie for Alex

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Autumn Arrives… and there are pies (and other treats) in the forecast!

23 Sep

Today in Ashland we awoke to gray skies and much cooler weather.  How did that happen?  Just a few days ago the temperature reached 95 and right now the thermometer is barely hitting 65!  Welcome to Fall everyone!

That last month of summer quickly slipped by me.  Perhaps I was busy but it went by so fast!  One minute we were camping and then it was back to school again (not for my kids but still) and the leaves are now changing.  Now before I get off on a rant (I know, you’re all thinking, “whew”) let me just share a few of the baked goodies that I managed to squeeze into the last few weeks.

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One day, Emile and I were on our morning walk when I saw my friend going to her car.  I called out “Hi… How are you?” She responded, “Not good.  My dog is hemorrhaging.  I need to bring him to the vet.”  I was stunned into silence and don’t even know if I managed to wave goodbye.  As we continued our walk, Emile turned to me and said, “There’s a pie in her future isn’t there?”  He knows me so well!  This gluten-free cheesecake/pear tart (which was later topped with toasted almonds – sorry, no photo of that) was brought to that woman to let her know that I understood the pain of losing a beloved pet.

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Then there were the quiches… with crimini mushrooms and peppers that I roasted (and what a wonderful scent they left in my kitchen!).  One of these was brought to a friend with an ailing partner.  My heart aches for them both.  The other quiche was for our new interim pastor (aka Mary Poppins) on the day that she arrived in the valley.  It was my hope that by bringing her something homemade she would feel welcomed into our community.

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These chocolate cupcakes were my contribution to my friend Marie’s birthday party.  We laughed trying to decide if they were my version of Ding Dong’s or Ho Ho’s.  All I know is that they are simply delicious and deliciously simple to make!  I make my favorite cupcakes, fill them with a squirt of whipped cream, and coat them in chocolate (melted with a bit of coconut oil) and then top with more whipped cream.  Yum!

Here is a photo of them midway through the process… I use a paring knife to cut a slit in the top of each cupcake and then a pastry bag to fill the centers with the whipped cream.  It’s really easy!  By the time you coat them with chocolate and top them with cream, the inside cream becomes a hidden delightful surprise!

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Last week I picked many bowls of delicious grapes at my friend Stella’s house and because I don’t own a food dryer, tried my hand at making raisins in my oven.  It took about a day at 175 degrees… and it worked!  They are the best raisins I’ve ever had (except maybe for the muscat raisins we used to get at the market in south San Francisco).  I probably picked 15 pounds of grapes… and they cooked down to about 3 pounds of raisins…. but they are soooooo good!

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Another treat that I made was for my neighbors, Ellen and Owen.  They came home after a very long “vacation” to visit their granddaughter (and her parents of course!)  As sweets are out of the question for Owen, I decided to make bagels to remind him of his time in New York.  I used this recipe by John D. Lee because it makes bagel making fast (just about 90 minutes) and very easy!  These bagels are incredibly tasty;  I know because I devoured one minutes after it came out of the oven.  Do try this recipe… you won’t be disappointed!

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Finally, last Saturday I created a platter of gluten-free sweets (coconut almond macaroons, raspberry-topped brownies, and peanut butter cookies) for supporters of the Ashland Schools Foundation.  They were treated to a beautiful event at Bel Fiore Winery and though I am sorry I couldn not attend, I was very happy to contribute.

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That’s about all I have to share right now.  Next time I write I hope to share tales of my visit to see my daughter, Alexandra, for her birthday.  She’s been working at Warby Parker since the spring and I am anxious to see New York through her eyes.  Til then, I wish you all sweet dreams!

Lots of Pies… and Butterflies!

18 Aug

How could it be that a month has flown by and I’ve not sat down to write about pies?  Actually, there are many reasons, most notably my Dad’s hospital stay and subsequent recovery.  This experience has been exhausting for both of us and I guess this is my main excuse for not writing. However, that has not kept me from baking!

Dad is getting stronger each day and as you can imagine, much of my summer has been focused on his care and recovery. However, if you know me at all, you know that I have found time to make quite a few pies. Truly, I think that baking has helped me to keep a positive focus.

The first pie I made during this last month was a quiche for my Dad’s surgeon, Dr.Monte Stewart.  I greatly appreciate all of the time and care that he gave to my Dad. (I also brought Banana Blueberry Muffins to the nurses at Asante Ashland. They were so wonderful… I can’t thank them enough!)

quiche prep dr. stewart

A short time later, I made a gluten-free blueberry peach pie for my friend Marcia because she is always doing things for others.  I found her at home recovering from a minor surgery and really in need of a pick-me-up.  It made me glad that I was able to do that for her and I just love when this project works out like that!
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Yet another quiche was delivered to a friend who is caring for her ailing husband.  I love them both dearly and any time they allow me to bring food I feel honored to be allowed into their close family circle.
 
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At the end of July my Dad celebrated his 79th birthday.  As he was (and still is) in a skilled nursing facility, I brought him a pizza “pie” to share with some of the other clients there.  When I walked into the dining room, I overheard a woman named Linda say to her friend, “She’s (referencing me) is my new best friend.”  Then Linda wheeled herself over to my Dad’s table and quietly waited.  After I served Dad and his table mates, I turned to Linda and said, “Are you my new best friend?”  She seemed surprised but then smiled as she realized I’d heard her… and then graciously accepted a slice of pizza.
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After the pizza was served, I gave out slices of Raspberry Peach pie.  The moans of delight coming from those folks was music to my ears! 
 
Then there was the Paleo-Peach Pie that I made for a friend who is experiencing major challenges.  This pie was my way of recognizing and supporting her during this  trying time.  Here is the recipe that I found on http://www.scrawnyWOD.com.
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Last week I made another raspberry peach pie… and delivered it to my friend Robbin.  Years ago she was part of the Conservation Commision (her area of expertise is water conservation) and more recently she has been helping my friend Claudia with estate sales.  A short time ago I was at one such estate sale and found several pie dishes there.  When I asked Robbin how much they were, she took them to Claudia to ask.  Later I found out that Robbin had bought them for me!  I really don’t know what she thinks I need pie dishes for….but I wanted to thank her for thinking of me just the same!
 
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As we chatted, I told Robbin that years ago another woman had told me that she had quit baking (and began painting) because she saw baking as a “temporal” art.  For a while that made me sad because it’s so true.  The things that I bake are here today… and gone tomorrow (if they last that long).  
 
Yet temporal though they may be, over the last few years I have learned that some of these gifts of pie are remembered long after the pie has been eaten.  Perhaps like the butterfly effect, each pie, though small, may have more impact than I can ever realize.  It’s not a bad thing to hope for anyway!
 
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The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.

Rabindranath Tagore

And lastly, a silly picture of my family…  I am one lucky lady!

 
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