Tag Archives: baking

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.

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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

Day 252: Happy 10th Birthday!

14 Dec

Today is the birthday of my niece Ella. When she was a toddler her Mom would bring her to work and Ella would sit by my workbench as I baked bread. She was tickled if I gave her a piece of dough to play with and seemed to enjoy watching the goings on in the kitchen.

One thing I remember from those early days is that Ella didn’t talk much. I guess that’s true for second born children – their older siblings speak for them and they don’t have to work hard to communicate. My son, who is the second born in our family, didn’t talk much when he was 2 or 3 because his sister did that for him. Sometimes the conversation went like this, (Alexandra speaking) “Coco wants a cookie” and all the while Coco was sitting silently, watching with wide eyes as the situation unfolded.

Though I don’t see Ella very often, I try to find ways to let her know that I am thinking of her. In the past I have given her baking paraphernalia and she seemed to like that and so tonight I extended an offer of a pie baking lesson. It would be fun to share my love of baking and perhaps a baking tip or two. But for tonight, I brought a warm Apple Crumb Pie to Ella to celebrate the end of her first decade on this lovely planet. May all of her days be happy and bright.

“There was a star danced, and under that was I born.” - William Shakespeare

Day 50: Debbie and The Journey Thus Far

27 May

Today is a small milestone in this yearlong journey of making pies.  Yes, there are still many pies ahead of me but it feels like a good time to pause for a moment and take an assessment.  If you were to ask me what I have learned so far, I would tell you that I have found that the simple act of giving someone a pie can have profound consequences.  Many times, though not always, I have felt that I have been in the absolute right place at the right time.  For example, I brought someone a quiche only to find out that they were incredibly busy that day and had not had time to even think about dinner.  And there have been a number of times when I’ve brought a pie to someone and was able to make a not so good day seem a bit brighter.

I will admit that this is not a project that make sense to everyone.  One friend saw me preparing to deliver my pie and said rather dryly, “Go on…. you go make someone’s day.” I left the house feeling a bit put off by his comment.  What was he trying to say?  Later, when I was leaving the house of that day’s pie recipient, she said, “You know Karen, you really made my day.” How about that. I was able to make someone’s day by bringing them a pie!

My friend Debbie told me that this is probably the best possible project for me – because I love to bake and I love to share stories about the people who have touched my life.  If you think about it, this pie adventure is composed of many different threads.  And as the threads come together they create a tapestry that tells the story of my life.  I am truly blessed – and very lucky that I am able to give thanks to those who have helped me along the way.

Today, I brought a Marionberry Pie to Debbie at Southern Oregon University. She is my neighbor, but she has also been a tremendous resource for my family as we have navigated the maze of financial aid for college.  And Debbie was the first person who “suspected” that a pie was awaiting her.  Seems this “project” is not as secret as I thought!

As I continue on this journey, I am buoyed by the encouragement and support that has been shown by my friends.  Below is an example of this support – a necklace that my friend Pam had made especially for me. Such a lovely gift. Didn’t I say that I was blessed?


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DAy 37: Miss Lee

14 May IMG_0113

This morning when I woke up, I had no idea who today’s pie recipient would be.  As we went for our walk I considered different people, and while they were all good candidates, I felt that I needed to keep thinking about it.  When we got back from our walk I just began to bake a pie and knew that the “person” would come to me somehow or other.

I decided to focus instead on the process of making the pie for in a way it is a kind of meditational “practice” for me.  First, I take my dough (I am making pie dough in batches so that I only need to make a batch once a week) and my silpat and my rolling pin.  Then I begin to roll out the dough. The dough is tender and so I handle it gently, and continue rolling it out until it is large enough for the pie pan.  Next, I trim the dough so that there is just enough of an edge to fold under. When the edge is folded, it is then time to make it look pretty.  It is easy for me to do this because over the years I have made hundreds ( perhaps thousands?) of pies. Think about the things that you do easily today.  Perhaps they weren’t always easy but because you wanted to know how to do them, they became easy because you practiced them over and over again.  That’s what it has been like for me with baking – I became good at it because I did it all the time.

Today after I made this pie (Apple Walnut) I knew that the recipient had to be someone special because it was a beautiful pie.  And almost immediately I knew who the recipient would be.  I called Lee to see if she was still in town because each spring she goes to Alaska to fish and I was worried that I might have missed her.  Well, I was lucky – she wasn’t leaving for three days!

Lee was my son’s kindergarden teacher at Helman Elementary. She came to our house before school started in 1998 to meet us and my son.  He was a bit shy but seemed to like her right away.  That year Lee had 15 boys and 5 girls in her class.  I couldn’t imagine how I would handle all those energetic children, and Lee did it with a quiet grace. I never heard her raise her voice and loved how she  kept their attention. Maybe it was her New England accent, her sense of wonder, or her gentleness – I don’t know – but my son was very fond of Miss Lee.

At the end of the that year, after Miss Lee had gone to Alaska, I was shopping with my son and he saw a guitar shaped brooch and told me that we needed to buy it for Miss Lee because she played the guitar.  I told him that she was already gone for the summer.  He told me that he could give it to her when school began again in the Fall.  I was impressed that he thought enough of Lee to want this pin for her and so I bought it.  My son kept the pin in his bureau until school started and he brought it to Lee on his first day back to school.  She was delighted with the pin and wore it often.  And each time she did so, she would make sure to point it out to my son.  I don’t know who felt more special – Lee  for getting the gift or my son for giving it.

It was wonderful to visit with Lee  today and hear about her family and their tradition of fishing which has been going on for many decades. She showed  me pictures of her family and shared with me some of her history.  As I was leaving, she told me that I had made her day by giving her the pie.  It doesn’t seem like much at all because she made my son’s first year of school so very special.

Day 23: In Margie’s Honor

30 Apr

Margie moved in next door to us a few years after we moved into our home in Ashland.  She was in her eighties and was still quite spry.  You would see her out in the yard pulling out weeds and doing other chores that much younger people would have long forsaken.  She was a grandmother and she loved the location of her home because she could hear the sounds of children as they walked to and from school.  Best of all, Margie loved living next door to a family with small children.  That turned out to be an incredible blessing for me.

At that time, I was working early mornings as a baker and would leave for work before my children were awake.  When I came home from work, I still had a lot of work ahead of me – as many mothers do.  My saving grace was Margie.  When I was at the end of my rope and my kids were needing attention I could call upon Margie.  I might ask my kids to go ask Margie for an ingredient for dinner or I might send them to bring her something I had made that day.  My children looked forward to spending time with Margie – she had toys for them to play with, she loved hearing about their days,  and  now and then she offered them a sweet treat.  She was their next-door Grandma – and she was a lifesaver for me.  She gave me a break when I most needed it.  And I am forever grateful to her for that.

This weekend, Margie’s family is gathering to celebrate her life.  I delivered a lovely Strawberry Rhubarb  Pie to Margie’s daughter, Katharine, so that she could share it with her siblings and their families.   I hope they know how lovely it was to have Margie as a neighbor and a friend.  We will cherish the memory of her always.

Day 18: Miss Carolyn

25 Apr

There are people we know who are part of the fabric of our lives.  Carolyn is one of those people for me.  She has a daughter who is the same age as my daughter.  Over the years we spent many hours together working on school related projects whether they were fundraisers, yearbooks or celebrations of one kind or another.

If you had a child in Mt. Ashland‘s MARA program a few year ago, you know Carolyn.  She spent many a weekend in the ski lodge at Mt. Ashland helping with the various races that were held and she didn’t even ski!   She was there for your kids and mine as they tested their skills on the challenging race courses of Mt. Ashland.  She gave up much of her free time to help with this sport.  Sure, she was there to support her kids, but at the same time she was there supporting countless other kids as well.

This morning I brought Carolyn a quiche as a small token of our appreciation of her service to all of us.  Carolyn, thank you for your gentle nature and your giving spirit.  The world needs more people like you.

And to everyone, Happy Easter.

Day 17: Claudia

24 Apr

Saturday is a good day for yard sales here in this little town and today I found a sale on Craigslist with the Y.E.S. logo.  That can only mean that Claudia is at it again.  Claudia is the proprietor of Y.E.S. which stands for Yard and Estate Sales.  She has been helping people sell their belongings for a long time and is the quintessential professional.  Her task is a fine line to walk and she does it with respect and grace.

An “estate sale” usually means that the person who once owned the items is no longer living.  For me, it is necessary to be respectful when walking through the home of a person who has passed on.  I feel as if the person’s space is being invaded and you may be forgiven for being there if you maintain a certain decorum.   Heaven forbid if you are rude or make fun.  Let’s not forget that one day someone may be perusing your “stuff.”

Estate sales are fun in an anthropological way in that they can tell us a lot about the person.  Did they like to cook?  or read?  Were they a film buff or maybe a gardener.   We leave all of our belongings behind when we die and they tell a story about us.   Look around at the items on your shelves… what do they say about you?  Perhaps if you are lucky, someone as nice as Claudia will handle your belongings with the love and care that you would give them.

For Claudia, and her lovely helpers, I brought a warm Marionberry Pie.  Thank you for your kindness.

Day 12: Roxanne – a force of nature.

17 Apr

Today, the recipient of my pie is my friend and neighbor Roxanne.  We were co-presidents of the PTA  at Helman School a number of years ago.  She was the “voice” of the PTA – running the meetings, etc.  I was very happy for that – and willingly did what ever else needed to be done.   I would never have taken on the  role of president alone, and was very grateful to have someone who was”fearless” to work with.

You may have met Roxanne around town.  She is a true force of nature!   She teaches classes like kick boxing – with the energy and encouragement necessary to keep you going.   She can make you laugh – but also makes time to listen if you need to talk.  She is real in the best sense of the word and we are lucky to have her in our community.   Won’t she be surprised when she comes home tonight to be greeted by a warm apple pie?

This “pie a day giveaway” project began as a way to bring a bit of happiness into someone’s life.   So far, I think it is going well.   Everyone has been genuinely pleased to receive a pie.  In fact, most folks have been quite surprised.  How fun is that?   Amazing that I can have such impact with such a small effort.  What that tells me is that we don’t “go out-of-the-way” for each other as often as we might.   I hope that someone out there is inspired to follow my example and make something for someone who has made a difference in their lives.

On a completely different note, check out commedienne Jeanne Robertson.  In this video she talks about her husband, LB (left-brain).  It’s a hoot.

Thanks for visiting.

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