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Home again, home again…

3 Feb

With yesterday’s snow on the ground outside, it was hard to believe that we just came home from two weeks by the ocean in Mexico. We’ve been going to the same town – Barre de Navidad – for a number of years and this year we brought a couple of friends with us and introduced them to “our” small Mexican town. At first, I wondered if they would love it as much as we do… after all, it is not a resort town in any sense of the word. Fortunately, they did. We all enjoyed sitting on the beach, playing games, eating tacos (thank you Ritchie Ruiz!), and sipping the local beer. It was really a wonderful time.

gandj

George and Joyce

Emile and me

Emile and me

Before going to Barre, I collected an assortment of gifts to bring along. Usually when you sit on the beach, vendors approach selling their wares.  Most of the time, we say, “No, gracias.” However, I would also ask, “Tienes ninos?” Most every vendor did have children, and then I would ask how many and their ages. Once this was determined, I would let them choose a gift for their kids. It didn’t cost me much, was fun for me to do, gave me a chance to practice my Spanish… and I made friends along the way!

gifts for Mexico

Beanie Babies, Crayola Crayons and Pencils, etc.

We had friends visit us in Barre as well. David and his wife, Rosalba, used to live in Ashland but now have returned to their home near Guadalajara. When they know we will be in town, they make the long drive to spend time at the seaside with us.  They are salt of the earth folks and we feel like a part of their family. Somehow we communicate quite easily because hearts will find a way to do that if you give them a chance!

Ramirez family

Leslie, Miriam, Rosalba, and David

Because I really need to make pies, I brought along ingredients to make a few. I hauled several pounds of cookie crumbs and a half dozen pie tins through TSA (I wonder if that even seemed strange to them?)  Of the five pies I made, three were coconut cream and two were chocolate cream and  I know at least two were delicious as we shared them with our friends.  One of the three pie “gifts” went to an old man recovering from a recent illness. He didn’t really know me but we had stayed at his inn about five years ago. I walked in and (all in Spanish) explained that we had once stayed there, that our friends stayed there the week before, and that we really loved Barra all while holding the pie.  I sensed his confusion and finally blurted out, “Esto es un regalo… gracias por todo. ” The smile that appeared on his face was absolutely glorious! Lesson: Next time, lead with the part about the gift and maybe those other details won’t even be necessary!

pie prep in barra

Parts of the pie-making process

coconut cream pie in Barra

Coconut Cream Pie

marketplace bowls

A trip to Mexico wouldn’t be complete without a day at a local crafters market. The bright colors of the pottery and the array of shining silver jewelry are stunning!  I’d love to take it all home with me… but alas, that is not possible. Instead, I limit myself to a few items as gifts and a few more as colorful reminders of our time there.

Market Vendor

Jose Ruis Montoya and Artesanias Huichol

Beach items

Gifts from the Sea

Each time as we walked the beach, I took a bag to pick up debris because I really feel that Barra is my beach and I want to do my part to take care of it. Occasionally we would find evidence of the recent hurricane but, all in all, the playa was pretty clean. I found this spigot and couldn’t leave it behind though I don’t know what I’ll do with it yet. The beach glass is something my Mom used to collect and I think of her each time I find a piece.

At the end of two weeks, it was very hard to leave Mexico behind because I feel so comfortable and at home there. It was shortly after returning from Barra five years ago when I began my pie project because I realized just how much I have to be grateful for. For many reasons, I think that a part of me will always remain in Mexico even when I am home again… And, really, that is as it should be.

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”  Confucious

 

 

Thanks… and giving.

30 Nov

apple pie NovemberIt’s been over four years since I started this blog/gratitude project. It seems only fitting that during this season of Thanksgiving that I share a few of the things that I am grateful for. Of course, I am thankful for the basics… a warm home, plenty to eat, and good health.  A few other important things on the list include:

Friends. The people that have known me forever and when we speak after many months we pick up right where we left off. You know who you are. I hold you all in my heart and am so grateful for your love and acceptance.

pumpkin pie for george Continue reading

A Crying Baby and a Few Pies

27 Oct

Late last month I boarded a flight to Portland for the first leg of my journey to see my daughter, Alex, in New York. I sat in my assigned seat, greeted my seatmate and waited for takeoff.  A few minutes later, a young couple with a crying infant headed for their seats – one row in front of and across the aisle from me. Moments later the baby’s cries became more frantic.  At that point, the mother handed the baby to the dad, and he sat there holding his screaming baby. The “mom” in me thought that by waving at the baby I could distract him for a moment, and maybe his cries would abate.  Instead, the baby’s Dad saw me waving and handed the baby over to me.

screaming baby

I was stunned!  The baby was screaming so immediately I tried bouncing him on my knees. Then I decided this situation called for serious measures and stood up and began rocking him from back and forth. The first flight attendant said that this was okay to do and that he’d let me know when we were ready for takeoff, so I continued to rock and talk quietly to the child.  In a matter of minutes, his cries became less frantic, and soon he stopped crying altogether. Then I noticed that the baby’s head was beginning to lean on my chest and before long he was sound asleep.  At that moment, the second flight attendant told me that I needed to sit down, so I handed the baby back to his parents. When I did that, the flight attendant looked at me in disbelief and said, “He’s not yours?”

No, he wasn’t mine, but I was happy to help because (let’s be honest) many of us have had that same experience. We’re stressed out for so many reasons (for example, packing and getting ready for a trip, rushing to the airport, etc) and of course, our baby picks up on that stress. Instead of being an annoyed passenger thinking “Oh no, a crying baby” I wanted to do something if I could and, fortunately, it worked out. The baby slept for the rest of the flight, Mom and Dad seemed more relaxed, and I got to soothe (and hold) a new baby.  Win-win-win!  What a way to start my trip!

high five

The reason for my visit to New York was so that I could help celebrate Alexandra’s, 27th birthday.  We did so by attending The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (cost: free!), The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (cost: free!), and the musical The Book of Mormon (SRO tix only $27!).  We also took long walks, dined around town, and simply spent time together. It was such a good visit and I know that I am a very lucky mama!

alexandra

Alexandra

While there I baked three apple pies… one for my brother-in-law, Mike, one for our friend Tom’s birthday, and one for my daughter’s amazing friend, Royce.

me and roycePie for Tom Minor

Royce with me and his Apple Pie and an Apple Pie for Tom.

Sullivan Street Bakeryimagine

Enjoying scrumptious bread at Sullivan Street Bakery and visiting Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial site.

Once back home, I baked another Apple Pie for one of our favorite singer/songwriters, the amazing Martin Sexton, who opened Jefferson Public Radio’s One World Performance Series. Then, a few days later, I baked yet another Apple Pie for a woman who donated to a charity that I help with. It was such fun to surprise her with a pie to thank her for her gift. Finally, a Bacon and Roasted Pepper quiche found its way to a dear friend who is going through chemo. It’s something nourishing that she can eat when she feels like eating and will also hold for a few days when she is not able to do so.

quiche for JoAnn

It’s been a long time since I’ve written and part of the reason for my delay was that there were so many stories in the news that have felt especially devastating. Some days I’ve found it hard to read the paper or listen to the radio because the stories break my heart. At times like this, I wish I could do something magical and change the world for the better. Until then, I will continue to give away pies… and maybe, every so often, I’ll rock a crying baby.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”  David Mamet

Creating ripples….

14 Sep

This last month, in addition to baking almost every day,  I’ve had a couple of interesting “pie” experiences that I would like to share with you.

a quiche for Liz

A Quiche for Liz

The first occurred at a party for my husband’s team of managers.  One of the women there asked me if I was still baking pies everyday.  No, I answered, it’s more like a few times a month.  She then turned to her partner and said, “Karen baked a pie a day for a year.”  That’s when he looked at me and said, “You’re the pie lady?  You brought me a pie!”

pumpkin pie for Debbie

Pumpkin Pie for Debbie

I wondered how that could be for I’d never seen this man before.  When he told me that he knew my friend Shirley it all came back to me.  During my “pie year”, Shirley had asked me to bring a pie to this man because he’d been so very kind and helpful to her… and of course I said I would.  Then she told me that he would not want to meet me (he’s pretty shy) and so we arranged to leave the pie in a safe place near his house.  He told me that he had arrived home that night wondering what he would have for dinner and saw a pie sitting there.  He said that pie solved the problem!  How about that… one day I deliver a pie and three years later, I finally meet the recipient!

Quiche

A quiche for my friend in need

Then last week my husband and his team went to dinner with a business consultant and her husband.  My friend, Amey, was there and casually mentioned to them that Emile’s wife (me) had created a project a few years back, giving away a pie a day. The couple both seemed stunned and told Amey that their friend back home in Sacramento had read about my pie story.  She’d been so inspired by it that she decided to set up a pie stand (much like a lemonade stand).

The next day that same couple popped into the kitchen at the B&B where I am working (they were guests there…  another coincidence?). They were happy to meet me and so excited that they could go home and share this news with their friend. I gave them my card and hope that their friend will soon share her pie experiences with me!

judy's pie prep

Prepping an Apple Pie

Finally, several months back I baked a pie and a friend came to mind and I decided to bring her the pie. When I reached her on her cell phone and asked if she was at home, she told me no… and was in fact on her way to her sister’s funeral. When I told her the reason for my call, she thanked me and said she felt better knowing that I’d been thinking of her. A few days ago, I baked an apple pie and called that same friend.  This time she was home… but shared that her brother was very ill and she’d just returned from visiting him.  She said that she would love a pie and thought it might help to cheer her up.  It seems strange that I thought of her when she going through two very difficult times… but I was so grateful to be able to help in my own way.

Judy's Pie

An Apple pie for Judy

Though these stories are not extraordinary at all, what most surprises me is the fact that years after my project ended, I am still discovering how people – some whom I don’t even know – were affected in some way by the gift of a pie.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Mother Teresa

Butterfly_Beauty

Summer Daze

11 Aug

Summer is flying by… and it seems that everyone around me is so busy!  Maybe it’s just that we all try to cram a lot of fun into these two months knowing that it soon will be over?  I don’t really know…  but it sure makes sense to enjoy this time while we have it!

P1040162

A few weeks back I delivered a blackberry peach pie to a dear woman who has been battling cancer.  I suggested that instead of cooking that night (since the outdoor temps were in the three digits) that she and her daughter have some of the warm pie with ice cream for dinner instead… and that idea seemed just fine with them.

P1040160

For a couple of mornings each week I’ve been helping a friend at her B&B, and have discovered some delicious treats that are quick and easy to prepare.  One day I noticed that there was an abundance of plums at the inn so I decided to make plum kuchen, or plum cake.  This recipe is similar to the one I used.  I hope that you’ll try it soon… with plums, or peaches, or berries!  I am sure that you’ll be glad you did!

me and jamie at the wedding

Last month I attended the wedding reception of the mother of one of my “other sons.”  Coco and Taylor have been close buddies since fifth grade and I was delighted to see Taylor’s mom, Jamey, so happy!  I wish her and Ian the very best!

backyard buck

Ashland is a deer friendly town… and some folks would say that isn’t okay.  As for me, I am always awed and amazed when I look out on to my fairly small backyard and see a few bucks resting there.  This is definitely not a sight I ever saw growing up in the projects!

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With Pam Marsh at the “Pie Social”

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Demonstrating the method to my madness 

On July 26, the Ashland Emergency Food Bank hosted a “Pie Social” to thank their many volunteers and supporters.  For one of the activities, Pam Marsh, the director of the food bank, asked if I would be willing to give a demonstration on making pie crust and I was delighted to do so.  My goal was to show what method works for me and also to encourage those in the audience to have fun while baking. Remember folks… it’s just a pie!  If you make a mistake, you’ll learn from it… and get better next time.  When Julia Child dropped the turkey she did not toss it… but rather, brushed it off and laughed about it. We all should be able to do the same!

P1040168Crater Lake

P1040169 The research vesselDinner on the dock at Wizard IslandDinner on Wizard IslandBucket of Crayfish on Wizard IslandKristin and Scott with the crayfish

Kristin and me on Wizard Islandphantom ship at crater lake Phantom Ship

For a few days this last week, I was honored to prepare meals for a group of researchers studying the crayfish problem (they are an invasive species and are affecting the newt population) at Crater Lake National Park. Among the many offerings served were several apple cobblers (since I didn’t remember to bring along pie pans) and that seemed to work out just fine. It was a bit of a logistical challenge…  but I don’t think I have ever worked in a more beautiful place!  I’m ever so grateful to Mark Buktenica (the aquatic biologist at the park) for allowing me this amazing experience.

owl on Dead Indian

On the drive home from the lake, I saw an owl perched on the fence post as I drove by and couldn’t resist going back for a quick photo.  It was absolutely magnificent to see this guy spread his wings and lift off.  It was a rare (for me) and wonderful sight!

amaroticos at the beach

Finally, I came home after working this week to see our son, Coco.  He had driven from Missoula with a friend and will be here for only a few days.  His Dad and I took him over to Gold Beach for a quick overnight visit.  That night we went to Anna’s by the Sea for dinner. When we entered the restaurant, Peter, the owner, teasingly asked me, “Karen, where is my …..ing pie?”  Funny, I had wondered if he would remember us; apparently he did.  Though I hadn’t brought along a pie, I had brought along a box of Cary’s chocolates for him… and I could tell that Peter was pleased.

Though it’s been a very hectic time, and while I am a bit tired,  what I am feeling now is a bubbling up of emotion and joy at my good fortune.  I pray that I will always remember how very lucky I am.

“God gave you a gift of 84,600 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say thank you?” William Arthur Ward

A Special Ingredient

24 Jun

pie prep for PK

pie for pk

Prep for a Three Berry Pie; the finished pie

A few weeks ago, Emile and I went to a Rotary gathering at a nearby winery. There we met with other Rotarians and also with people who are considering joining our club.  During one conversation, the topic of my pie project arose and I mentioned that sometimes I really had to think about who “needed a pie” that day.  At that moment, the gentleman I was talking to stopped me with a question: “Does anyone ever really need a pie?”  Before I could answer, his lovely girlfriend piped up and in an exasperated tone said, “It’s not about the pie!”

She immediately understood that, for me, giving away pies has little to do with the crust, or the berries, or any of the other tangible ingredients. Instead, the only ingredient that truly matters is the love that is added during the process of making, baking, and delivering the confection. The recipient can’t see this… but they can feel it.  At least that is what I’ve been told: the many pie recipients who have reported back to me have shared just how good receiving a pie made them feel.  Of course, hopefully the pie tasted delicious… but more importantly I believe the knowledge that they were thought of with love made each person feel wonderful. That love just happened to have been transformed from thought to pastry—it’s kind of cool when you think about it!

In light of the horrific news of the killing of the nine church members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, my efforts to make a difference in a world that can be so evil truly seem insignificant.   My heart grieves with the families of those slain, because the senselessness of their deaths is incomprehensible.  However, my soul also feels great hope because those same grieving people offered forgiveness.  I am both humbled and in in awe of their faith and spirit.

The question that we all face is “How do we move forward from here?”  How I wish I knew the answer!  This quote by Edmund Burke comes to mind:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  

In my heart I know that we must do something.  What we do will be different for each of us, but I believe that if we act with the desire to do good—and if we act with love—we’ll be moving in the right direction.

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” 

~ Thomas Aquinas

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.

 

 

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