Friends, Pies, and Pepper

28 Apr

Lilacs in our yard

Though I haven’t written in a while, I want you to know that I’m still here and in the last few weeks I’ve made a few pies.  One, a Triple Berry Pie was delivered to a nurse named Nancy at Ashland Hospital.  She was very kind to my Dad and I wanted to thank her for all the care that she showed him.

pie for nurse nancy

Another, a Mushroom and Pepper Quiche, was delivered to a friend shortly after she returned home from the hospital.  It was much appreciated by my friend and it felt good to know that I could help her on her way to recovery.

quiche prep for DeeDee

Another pie, my go-to Apple Crumb Crust, was delivered to a woman I met when she was having a yard sale.  Her name is Josie and I overheard her saying that she is moving to Guanajuato, Mexico – one of my favorite cities!  I was amazed at the idea of her packing up a home that she’s lived in for years and moving to another country.  That kind of adventurous spirit certainly needed to be rewarded… and what else would I bring but a pie?

Apple Crumb Crust Pie 315

And one day last week I made these delicious Gluten Free Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies to thank my friend Don for coming to my aid when my car battery died at the worst possible time.   I made one phone call to his workplace and in just a few minutes he showed up and got my car started.  I didn’t have time to bake him a pie (so much going on!) and I hope that these brownies gave him some indication of how grateful I was for his help.

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

This last week was especially challenging as my dear kitty of 18 years, Pepper, was preparing to leave this world.  She was the epitome of grace as she ate less and less, and then not at all.  The last few days she sipped only water until that too was unnecessary.  In the end, she left peacefully with a final “meow” as I held her close.  I feel that we were lucky that she chose our home to come to live in all those years ago… and am grateful for all the time that we had her… but I’m still very sad to see her go.

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“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”  Anatole France

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.”  Will Rogers

 

 

 

 

It’s Springtime!

25 Mar

P1000824I’ve always loved springtime… daffodils popping up in the yard, asparagus and strawberries appearing at the market, the chill of winter fading, and a sense of new beginnings circling.  Last year at this time I was traveling to Florida because my Dad had a stroke.  During that time I barely noticed the world around me because I was busy learning medical jargon and trying to make sense of things.

This year, life still is presenting challenges, my Dad’s health being one of them.   As always, for me the hardest part about this journey is that I am not able to “make him well” and that is hard to take.  I want to know that my efforts have some effect, but the truth is that sometimes they don’t.

When things are out of my control (and aren’t they always?) I gravitate towards areas where I feel like I am making a difference.  One of those places where I have found myself doing that has been at my neighbor’s house.  Anny and her new baby boy, Sebastian, are living there.  Sometimes I can help Anny by holding Sebastian while singing and rocking.  If I am lucky and he falls asleep in my arms I almost feel as if I have been awarded the Nobel Prize. In other words, my skills have been validated.

Yesterday I baked an Asparagus, Red Pepper, and Chicken Apple Sausage Quiche for Anny.  I know that taking care of a new baby (and nursing him) is very demanding… and I wanted to give her a special treat for doing such a great job as a new Mom!

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I also baked several batches of Pecan Shortbread cookies this week.  I LOVE those things.. and really, what’s not to love? These cookies are a simple combination of sugar, butter, flour and pecans… and they’re delicious!

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Some of those cookies made it into the hands of the men who delivered my new Kitchenaid oven yesterday (oh my goodness… it is so lovely!) and some of them were given to a homeless man who held a sign saying “Anything helps.”  I’ll admit, I ate two of them and could easily have polished them all off!

Finally, yesterday I made a Chocolate Cream Pie for some friends at a local radio station, Kool 103.  Once again, I was the lucky winner of a prize… and to thank them I dropped off the pie.  Making goodies for them has long been my tradition… and I think that there’s a slight chance that they might even look forward to me winning!

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Tonight I send good wishes to you all for a Happy Spring… and if you are in the mood, try out this recipe.  You’ll be glad you did!

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

Mix butter and sugar together until creamy.  Add vanilla.  Stir in flour until just combined and then add the chopped nuts.  Take tablespoonfuls of the cookie dough and roll into balls.  Roll the balls of dough in sugar and place on cookie sheet; gently flatten each dough ball.  Place pan with cookies into oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are beginning to brown around the edge.  Remove cookie sheet from oven and let cookies cool.  Enjoy!

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”  Julia Child

Pi Day… and more pies!

15 Mar

P1000610This past week has been filled with a variety of pies!  The week began on Sunday when I donated this Apple Crumb Pie to the Schneider Museum of Art  as one of the raffle prizes for their annual Bridge and Brunch fundraiser. It’s been my honor to cater this fundraiser for the last few years and I am delighted to serve this great organization.

Then on Wednesday I attended my last Italian class for this term.  A few classmates offered to bring something to celebrate our “success” thus far with this romance language.  One friend made a delicious Tiramisu (which translates to “pick me up)”, while another friend brought along a sparkling beverage to toast our health. Our lovely teacher brought grilled vegetables (verdure grigliate) and I crafted this vegetarian pizza “pie.”  Che divertimento!

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Before I went to class on Wednesday, I dropped off another Apple Crumb Pie (do you get the feeling that I like making this pie?) to our friend, Noah, who was hosting two Japanese students at his home.  The Japanese boys had been hosts to Noah (he went to Japan with the Ashland High School football team last summer) and they’ve kept in touch since then. Noah had extended an open invitation to his hosts to come and visit Ashland and stay at his home and they finally took him up on it!  I think it’s really wonderful that these young men are creating a lasting bond.  It gives me hope for the future!

P1000611And then yesterday was Pi Day… you know, 3.14, or March 14.  Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.  I wish my math teacher in high school had brought in some real “pies” when she was teaching us this stuff.  I am sure that I would have paid MUCH more attention (and maybe even become a different kind of pi lady altogether!)

In honor of Pi Day, I brought a quiche to the medical staff who are tending to my Dad.  He’s facing some health challenges right now and I wanted to show my gratitude to them for their care and concern.  It is most appreciated.

quiche for pi day

“Cooking is like love – it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.”  Harriet Van Horne

Pies for so many reasons!

7 Mar

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Coco and Alex, meet their host sister Lucka

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur and for good reason.  First my daughter , Alexandra, decided to come home for a brief visit before she began her new job (with Warby Parker!) and then my son, Coco, surprised me one night with a knock at our front door (he and his Dad were in cahoots about this).  So, for about a week I was back in Mom mode (my favorite place) and let a lot of other things go.  Well, except for pies.

While she was home, Alexandra mentioned that she wanted to stop at her (and our) alma mater, Southern Oregon University, to visit with her adviser, Rene.  A perfect occasion to bring along a pie!  The ingredients – apples, butter, flour, and sugar – came together quickly and as it baked we got ourselves ready.  Soon we were heading over to the university on a beautiful day.

Alex with pie at SOUAlexandra with Apple Pie

We were thrilled to find Rene (and office manager, Kathy) available to visit for a few minutes and they seemed happy to see us as well (or was it  the still warm pie?)  Alexandra is one of Rene’s first legacy students.  He was a professor to her parents (Emile and I) twenty plus years ago and then was her professor as well.  He still recalls seeing us carry her to school in the baby backpack.   Thanks for everything Rene!

Alexandra with Rene and Kathy

One day during the week I noticed that my friend, Margie Cicerrella, was featured in  the local paper.  Margie is retiring after many years of working as a children’s librarian.  Margie has been a driving force for literacy and among many other things spearheaded  the “Welcome Baby Book Bags” program – a program designed to promote language development in infants by giving new parents a cloth bag filled with board books.  For that alone, Margie deserves a million pies!  But alas, all I could do was bring her this one – a sweet potato and pecan pie.  Thank you Margie for all the wonderful work that you’ve done!

P1000559After a fun-filled week with Alexandra and Coco (cooking together, seeing plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and singing along to Coco’s guitar playing), sadly, they both had to return home. The first day after they left I must admit that I felt pretty blue.  Fortunately, I had agreed to teach a friends’ troop of girl scouts how to bake a pie (and share my story of giving away pies) that very afternoon.

At first, I was a little nervous but the girls were simply delightful.  They listened to my brief talk and then the kitchen was a flurry of flour, pie dough, and pumpkin pie filling!  Lots of questions were hurled at me, but I managed to answer most of them, and at the end of the afternoon, the counter was filled with pies.  There’s nothing like making pie – and helping kids learn to bake – to fix the blues!

P1000584The last pie I made this week was for the family of an old friend who succumbed to cancer a few days ago.  My heart aches for her husband and children and bringing them dinner and a pie felt like a way to ease their pain… and I’m sure my friend would love knowing that her family was cared for in this way.

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“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” —Alan D. Wolfelt

Sharing our Gifts

18 Feb

When I am alone at home I often sing along with songs on the radio.  When I was younger, I sang with the school chorus and also in the church choir.  I guess you could say that I am a singer… but it’s not a gift that I share with the world.   Oh, I’ve been known to sing babies to sleep and after a glass of wine, I sing along with my friend Mark as he plays guitar (he calls this Karenokie).   Somewhere along the line I decided to hide that part of me… or maybe I just protect it from scrutiny.

singer

Another thing I like to do is play with paint.  I’ve painted cards for friends and painted rooms in my home, but it’s not what others would call art.  It’s just fun for me, and again, it’s not a gift that I openly share.

And of course you all know that I love to bake.  Long ago I learned this skill and found something in it that spoke to me and also discovered that it was a way for me to connect with others.   When I was a kid, and a new neighbor moved in, I would tell my Mom that we needed to bring them a cake for I’d learned that from TV shows like Donna Reed’s.

Fortunately, my Mom didn’t try to stop me and baking became a way for me to get to know many neighbors and friends over the years. Baking is something I do almost every day whether I need to or not.  I love everything about baking and have found that for me it is a way to share that love with those around me.

In the last week I made three pies.  The first one was a quiche and was gifted to a friend who is facing a transition.   I hope that this asparagus, roasted peppers, and cheddar cheese pie makes evident our love and support to her and her family.

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Then on Valentine’s Day, our exchange student, Lucka, moved to her next host family.   Since we’ve been so blessed to have had a great time with her, I wanted to send her off to her new family with a gift and a Chocolate Cream Pie just seemed perfect for the occasion.

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It’s been great having Lucka live with us for these past two months and I hope that her new family has as much fun getting to know her as we have.  One of our favorite things about this time together has been  listening to Lucka laugh at silly videos such as this one.  Her boisterous laugh is priceless!

Finally, yesterday I made a quiche for a woman that I’ve never met.  Another friend found out about my pie story and asked if I would gift her friend a pie. Seems the woman is battling cancer but right now has an appetite and needs to gain weight.   Well, a bacon, pepper, and jack cheese quiche should help with that, and I hope that the love that went into it’s making will strengthen her as well.

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We all have gifts and many times, for one reason or another, we choose not to share them.  My hope is that at least one person reading this will share his/her gift with someone they care about.   It would be a shame to die with your gifts still inside.

“Your talent is God’s gift to you.  What you do with it is your gift back to God.”  Leo Buscaglia

The Pies that had to Wait

3 Feb

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Ingredients for quiche: Bacon, Onion and Peppers

Recently I learned that an old friend was diagnosed with cancer.  I’d not seen her in a long while and was taken aback at the news.  Immediately I offered to bring food for the family as I know that they are very busy taking her to and from doctors appointments.  However, because my friend has been following a very restricted diet, my offer of food was not able to be accepted.

It wasn’t easy to stand by knowing that the family was struggling.   It is my belief that sending food to those in need is in fact sending love disguised as nourishment.  While the food can satisfy the body’s need for sustenance, what I envision is that the recipients can also feel the love that they were held in during the time it took to prepare and deliver their food.

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Making use of my new apple peeler – Thank you Nordic Ski Team!

Two nights ago I was thrilled when my friend’s husband asked for food to be brought for him and his daughters.  More specifically, he asked me for a quiche and a pie.  I was honored to be allowed to help in this small way.  After checking ingredients at home, I made a dash to the store for bacon, apples, and cream.  Next morning I arose early and prepared both pies, all the while, holding thoughts of the family in my heart.P1000453

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Love when the juices bubble through like this!

It is my hope that some of that love seeped into the pies and will provide them with a little bit of comfort and the knowledge that they are not alone.

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“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…the people who give you their food give you their heart.” —Cesar Chavez

A Pie for Pam

23 Jan

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During my “pie a day giveaway” year, I didn’t always know where each pie would wind up at the end of the day.  Of course, sometimes I did begin the day with a particular person in mind.  Most often, that was because a friend or relative was having a birthday.

However, what happened much of the time was that I began the process of making a pie without anyone in mind.  Then, somehow, a name or face would pop in my head, and I just “knew” where that pie would be going.

Now there were days that my intuition was off.  Occasionally I would find that the intended “pie” person was not home when I arrived at their door (or business) and then I would have to go to Plan B.   And surprisingly, the second person that I selected was in fact the person I needed to give the pie to after all… but I just hadn’t known it.

Well, yesterday I wanted to make a pie and immediately my friend Pam’s name came to mind.   Then the idea of an Apple Blueberry pie followed and I was off on a mission.  In about thirty minutes I had a crust prepared, sliced apples and blueberries tossed with sugar and flour and slipped into that crust, and a crumb crust pressed on top.  Before long a delicious aroma was wafting through the house.

After the pie was baked I placed it in a basket and drove to Pam’s workplace. One of Pam’s coworker’s was not sure that she was not in, but another knew just where to find her and brought her to me.  The smile on Pam’s face when she saw me with the pie was priceless, but what was even more amazing were the words that she said to me, “You have an uncanny ability to know when someone needs a random act of kindness.”

Pam, I wish I could say that that was true, but that would be a lie.   Instead, what I can say is how wonderful it feels (and how very grateful I am) for the times when I have picked up on a message from the universe and it turns out this well.

P1000222“We think too much and feel too little.  More than machinery, we need humanity.  More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.”           Charlie Chaplin

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