Tag Archives: Cary’s of Oregon

Toffee, Moose Munch, a Pie, and a Cake too!

24 Jun

italy map

How can it be that three weeks have passed since we returned from Italy?  That’s almost unbelievable! It seems as if we were just there… and yet now we are back in our small town… and settled once again into our daily routines.  I suppose that is how life works.  It just speeds along… and the vacation that you waited forever for is suddenly over, and you find yourself back in “the real world.”

Well, fortunately our “real world” is not so bad.  In fact, it’s pretty darned nice.  We wake up every day in a peaceful place; war is not something we have had to deal with.   We have access to good  food and clean water, we have shelter, and more than our share of good neighbors and friends that help us in so many ways.  We are more than lucky; we are blessed!

Cary's Toffee

Before we leave the Italy trip in the past,  I want to share with you an idea that I read about recently and acted upon while on our vacation.  The author suggested taking along little treats (from his hometown but not home-made goodies!) and he shared how he gave the treats to the people who worked for the airlines (the stewards, the clerks at the ticket counter, etc) to thank them for their service and assistance (notice these employees are generally not tipped).   He also reminded us to say “Please” and “Thank you” more often (unfortunately not everyone does!)  His premise is that even though the airline employees are getting paid to do their job, a simple thank you, or a small gift will not go unappreciated.

I loved this idea and because I also LOVE Cary’sof Oregon Toffees, I brought along a bunch of their small boxes of toffee (and also a couple of bags of Harry and David’s  Moose Munch) so that I could try out this “gifting” technique.   The very first opportunity to gift someone came at the Lufthansa counter in Newark.  Our plane had arrived late and literally hundreds of folks were lined up trying to “fix” their travel plans.   We waited in line  and we watched the ticket agent for more than 30 minutes as he patiently handled crisis after crisis.

When it was finally our turn, he helped us rebook our reservation and because we were going to be late getting into Munich (and would miss the only flight out to Pisa that day), he also arranged for us to get a room for the night (and meals!).  I reached into my suitcase and brought out the Moose Munch (I figured he needed a larger gift as he would likely share it with his co-workers) and set it down in front of him. He looked surprised and said, “You don’t have to give me anything!”   I explained that we were just so grateful that he was taking such good care of everyone that we wanted to thank him.  His happy smile was our reward.

That was our first attempt at gifting and it was a great experience… and so we followed that up by sharing chocolates with the reservations agent in Munich, with the woman who owned the home where we stayed in Vernazza, and  the cooks at the villa, among others.  Each and every one of the “gifted” people was pleasantly surprised by the gesture and it felt so good that I wanted to pass this idea along.   Try it for yourself and see… and do let me know how it works for you.  It will be fun to hear how seemingly small gifts can have a big impact.

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Oh!  about the pie…  Yesterday I finally made a pie to thank a man whom I have never met for doing a huge favor for me.  Tom Marks, is an associate of Emile’s and he operates the Organic Produce Warehouse in Ashland.  Last summer Tom moved a very large refrigerator to my home; clearly not an easy task.  He didn’t have to do it… but he did it and that fridge has made a huge difference in my life.  This pie can’t begin to repay the debt of gratitude I feel, but it is a start!

To begin, I found some lovely blueberries and added some apples and put together a pie in just under an hour (a little long but I am out of practice!) and when it was baked brought it to Tom’s workplace (he was away from the office).  Later in the day I got a very happy email thanking me for the pie.  Thank you Tom for your much needed assistance!

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As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  John F. Kennedy

PS: Before I sign off, I’d like to invite anyone interested in learning how to make beautiful (and gluten-free) cakes to come to my class at the Ashland Food Coop on July 8.   You can read more about it here… and I hope you’ll consider joining me.  It promises to be a delicious evening!

Lastly, here’s a photo of a wedding cake I made recently with pints and pints of fresh organic berries.  It was such fun to make and I love how the berries are the only adornment it needed.

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Baking and Love – One and the Same?

4 Sep

This last week was pretty busy around here.  There were so many things I wanted to do with our Japanese exchange students, Saya and Hitomi, and it seems that our time together went by so very fast!

Last Tuesday I gave them a couple of baking lessons – the first to make pecan shortbread cookies – and the next was to bake a chocolate cake for one of their classmates.  They really seemed to enjoy the process and were delighted to present Yuta with his birthday cake!

Saya holding pastry bag as Hitomi adds more whipped cream

Putting the finishing touches on the cake

A very happy Yuta – on his 20th Birthday!

We also were able to squeeze in a trip to Grant’s Pass to visit Cary’s of Oregon (they make the best english toffee ever!)  And on our last night with our girls, we took them and a few friends out to dinner.   It was a great evening.

The next morning, as we helped the girls prepare for their trip to San Francisco, and then home to Tokyo, they presented us with a photo book that they had stayed up to the wee hours of the morning making.  It is so amazingly thoughtful – and filled with pictures of all the things we’d done together.  At the very end of the book they’d pasted hand-printed thank you letters to us; as you might imagine,  we were both in tears.   We feel so very fortunate that we were asked to host these girls.  It’s been such a wonderful experience.

Our lovely photo book from Saya and Hitomi

Lest you thought I forgot, I did find time to make a few pies this week.  The first was for my friend Ken who was celebrating his birthday Friday evening.  His favorite pie?  Blackberry.   Knowing this, earlier in the week I found a blackberry patch and picked a large bowlful of berries – and escaped with only a few scratches!  Once the pie was constructed and in the oven, I made one of my favorite appetizers for Ken’s party – Spanakopita!  It was one of the first things I learned to make at the Culinary Institute of America (taught by Chef Vitoulis).  A delicious treat that is really quite simple to make.  Here is a recipe I found that is very similar to the way I learned to prepare it.  It’s definitely worth the time and effort!

Spanakopita and Blackberry Pie

The second pie I made was for our good friend Anny who recently completed her studies at Seattle Culinary Academy , a branch of Seattle Central Community College.  Anny earned perfect scores on her final baking projects – one of only a handful of people who have done so in the last ten years!   We are so very proud of her accomplishment and are very excited about her upcoming paid internship in Paris.  Way to go Anny!

Prep for Anny’s Pie

As for today – I plan to spend a quiet day at home – and will likely bake something yummy to give away – and I’ll be thinking of my sister Nancy on her 18th anniversary in heaven.

Life’s gifts are where you find them

16 Aug

How can it be that I bake almost every day and have not taken the time to write a post in weeks?  I can’t explain it except to say that I can think up many reasons to bake something – but by day’s end, it’s hard to find the energy to write a single word!  Yet I can’t begin to imagine going for weeks without baking.

Chocolate Cream Pie topped with chunks of Cary’s Toffee

It seems I am always finding a reason to bake.  Recently, I baked a chocolate cream pie for my friend Judi who was leaving her job after 28 years.  She is looking forward to what the future holds for her – and to spending more time with her seven grandchildren (who I hoped would be able to help her with all of that chocolate!)

And then last weekend was the first anniversary for the Medford Food Co-op and I was asked to make some cakes for the celebration.  I made three cakes – two of which were chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sour cream frosting.  The third cake was also chocolate and had a chocolate frosting but with raspberry filling –  and this one was gluten-free and dairy free as well!  That made a lot of people happy… and I was tickled to provide a cake that worked within those dietary restrictions.

Lest you think I have forgotten, there was a “pie recipient” in the mix.  I’d been listening  to Jefferson Public Radio on Saturday night not long ago, and the program that was on is one of our favorites.  It is called American Rhythm.  The host of this program is a man named Craig Faulkner and this is what is said about Craig’s program on the JPR website: Craig Faulkner uses his extensive archive of classic R&B, Swing, Jazz, Blues, and the popular music of a time gone by to honor and celebrate the Golden Era of American Music.

As I was preparing dinner and listening to his show that night I thought, I should make this man a pie!  You see, we’ve listened to his show for many years and I realized, he doesn’t know how much we enjoy this music.  I wanted to bake him a pie to say “Thank you for bringing us this lovely gift each week!”  However, this was a little bit of a challenge because I didn’t know Craig Faulkner at the time.  But after a few emails and a few phone calls, we became acquainted… and I was able to meet him and give him a berry pie (his wife had said he’d like that).

Fresh Blackberry and Raspberry Pie

You see, I think it is important to take the time to let people know when they’ve made a positive impact on our lives.   Even if all we offer is a simple “Thank you” to the person who has changed our lives for the better, we will have acknowledged their efforts – and that is the least we can do.

Oh –  I forgot to mention that we are hosting two lovely Japanese students for a few weeks.  Their names are Hitomi and Saya and they are here to participate in an intensive English program at Southern Oregon University.  Each day we talk, ask questions, and laugh at the differences in our languages… and each day their English gets a little bit better.  It’s been quite an amazing process to witness!

Saya and Hitomi

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” 
―    Marcel Proust

Day 155: Aunt Gladys

8 Sep

My Aunt Gladys was my Uncle Tommy’s wife. When they were dating I was a toddler and they liked to take me out with them. The story I remember most (probably because I heard it so often) is when they took me for an ice cream cone. As I recall, we were in a red car, with me in the front seat between them (back before baby car seats!) Into my hands they put an ice cream cone and as I tried to take a bite – plop! the ice cream scoop fell onto the seat. At this point in the story, my Aunt would be laughing; I don’t remember her caring about the mess – it was a story about having fun together.

Early last Saturday morning I heard my cell phone ringing. It was my sister calling to tell me that my Aunt Gladys had died during the night. Neither of us knew that she had been in the hospital for heart surgery (which the Doctors thought was successful) and so we were (all) taken by surprise.

Had I not been booked for an event tomorrow, I would have gone to the funeral. My cousin said, “Don’t worry about coming; she’s not here.” And I told him, “I know that. I wouldn’t be going for her – I’d be going to spend time with you and your family.” It seems that’s all we can do at times like this.

Two days ago, in addition to my “pie of the day”, I baked a brownie pie with Cary’s Dark Chocolate Espresso Toffee and mailed it to my cousin’s family on Staten Island. It was my hope that it would arrive today and that the family would share it after the service. It was my way of “being with them” even though I am thousands of miles away.

After the funeral today, in honor of my Aunt Gladys, my cousin served “Bahama Mama’s.” It is the kind of cocktail that my Aunt might have had on a special occasion. Yesterday, I went out and purchased the ingredients so that I could join my family in toasting my Aunt. I needed to share this moment with them; it is still hard to believe I won’t see her again.

Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.
Eskimo proverb

Bahama Mama
1/2 oz Rum
1/2 oz Coconut Rum
1/2 oz Grenadine
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Pineapple Juice
1 Cup Crushed Ice
Combine all ingredients in blender and serve.

Day 148: My first international pie

1 Sep

Today we said “Goodbye” to Stephan, our Rotary exchange student from Germany. Actually, Stephan was our exchange student 5 years ago. This time around he was “family” home for a visit. We all had so much fun with him – remembering the moments we shared in the past and enjoying the young man he has become. Stephan could probably be a poster child for the Rotary Youth Exchange.

Stephan was here for a month and during that time he reconnected with his high school classmates, visited his former host parents, and enjoyed the amenities of southern Oregon. He had a great time – as did we all. It was almost as if he’d never left; it was really wonderful.

This morning I woke up early to bake a pie for Stephan to take home to his parents, Christian and Gabby. I made yet another brownie pie because this pie had 6,000 miles to travel. I topped it with dark chocolate espresso toffee from Cary’s of Oregon. It is just a small gift to thank them for letting us spend a month with their son – who has become like a son to us.

I think that this is the goal of the Rotary Youth Exchange program – that we get to really know the people involved, and then we begin to care about them, and then we grow to love them. When this happens, we focus less on our differences and instead we begin to see how similar we are. Then the world becomes a little bit better for all of us.

I’ll end with some music by Iz Kamakawiwo’ole

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