Tag Archives: Dad

Family, Friends, and a word about Kindness

11 Jul

So many things to share… and this time, I hope to do it with pictures (well for the most part!)….

Here is a photo of me and my Dad.  We took a drive to Crater Lake one Sunday… and he really seemed to enjoy it.  I’d forgotten how cold it could be… even in the summer!

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Then, a few weeks ago, a group of friends, many of them Rotarians, met to bid farewell to Lucka, our exchange student from the Czech Republic.  It was a wonderful year for her… and for us… and now Lucka is back home with her “real” family.  But we know that she made lasting friendships while she was here… and I’m sure it won’t be long before we see her again!

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Lucka’s Going Away Party

Recently, I’ve been lucky to have been asked by a few friends to cook for them…  what fun!

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And of course I found time to make a few pies.  One pie, a sausage, roasted pepper, and broccolini quiche found its way to a friend who has MS.  The high heat of summer makes her symptoms worse and so I thought this might be a way for her to enjoy a few meals without having to turn on the oven.

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Another pie, an apple blueberry, was made for a friend who was first diagnosed with cancer 25 years ago.  He is battling the disease once again, and I wanted to offer him something delicious – fresh from the oven… to feed his belly and his soul.  We’ll be praying for you, Caballo!

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Lastly, I wanted to share a message from our friend, Len, who passed recently.  He asked that rather than sending flowers, that his friends do something kind for a few other people instead. He wanted us to find people in need and instead of just giving them some food or money, that we also spend a few minutes talking with that person, asking their name, etc.  The gift to them would then be greater because we would also acknowledge their identity and hopefully grant them some dignity… something we all need.

My first “gift” was given yesterday.  On a very hot day I sat for a few minutes with “Henry.”  I met his dog and offered him a sack lunch and a cold bottle of water… which he said he would share with the dog.  At first I wondered how it would go… but It was really so easy to do and, not surprisingly, it felt like one of the best things I’ve done all week.

John Prine

Here is a link to the song entitled, Hello in There, by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, John Prine, that shares a similar sentiment.   Enjoy!

Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.  Mother Teresa

Mother’s Day… and a few pies

12 May

The last few weeks have been a bit crazy.  My Dad was sent to the hospital once again because he had an infection… and I had a few events to cater.  At times it felt like I was barely keeping my head above water, but somehow everything worked out.  Dad is home and doing better… and all of my events went well.

wedding photoThe Wedding Table

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I woke up feeling a little blue.  I know that I was lucky to have a mother that loved me… but I still mourn her passing all these years later.  I know that I am not alone in sadness.  I am very aware that this day is hard for many.  There are grieving mothers mourning the loss of a child… and many children mourning the loss of their mother.  And so while my husband slept I got up and started making pies…  it’s something that helps me feel better. Each of us has our own way of coping…  baking just happens to be my way.

The first pie that I made was a quiche for a friend of mine who lives nearby.  She is not only a mother, but also a grandmother, and she and her husband are raising their special-needs grandson.  I admire them both so much for what they are doing… and when I see them with their grandchild, I am humbled by their love and dedication.  If more people could be like them, this world would be a much better place.

quiche for ellie

Mushroom and Pepper Quiche

Next I began prepping a Strawberry Rhubarb pie for a man at church who recently celebrated his 97th birthday!  Two years ago I baked a cake for him on his 95th birthday, and amazingly he is still going strong.  Last week he wasn’t at church because he was attending the 75th reunion of his college class… not surprisingly only one other student made it to that celebration!  I am so inspired by this man’s love of life! I just hope that I can live out my years as joyfully.

dan's pieStrawberry Rhubarb Pie prep

And now I would like to end this post on a very happy note: I want to mention that this week my husband and I are preparing to leave for a long-awaited vacation in Italy.  We both have been to Italy before, he when he was just 7 years old, and me when I was 18. Clearly, it has been a very long time… but we are both looking forward to this exciting adventure.  And just so you know, I will be packing a few pie tins in my bag… just in case I get the chance to gift a pie! Wouldn’t that be fun?

Caio for now!

 

“All that I am, or all that I hope to be,  I owe to my angel Mother.”  Abraham Lincoln

 

 

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

Sharing Life’s Journey

20 Sep

It’s funny that sometimes I can get so caught up in my own “stuff” that I sometimes don’t notice that there are folks around me experiencing troubles that are much more challenging than mine.    Even though I’ve been overwhelmed at times with my Dad’s health care concerns, I know that I am not the only one struggling.  In just the last few weeks several friends have shared their circumstances with me.  One friend told me that her house had flooded, another spoke of a family member who has been suffering from depression, still others are grappling with their finances,  and sadly several friends have lost loved ones.

We are all travelers on this journey called life, and while we cannot walk someone else’s path,  we can help our fellow voyagers get back on their feet when they stumble or offer them respite when they are weary.   Often the things we can do for one another will not change the circumstances of the situation.   When someone dies, we are helpless to bring that person back to life.   But that does not mean that we are powerless to help.  We can offer to cook a meal, or help with some chores, or we can just sit and cry with them.   Being willing to share another’s (sometimes painful) experience helps to make their journey a bit more bearable,  a little less lonely.

These past few weeks I have greatly appreciated the friends who called to ask how I was and to say that they’d been thinking of me.  That simple gesture was like a life line tossed out into a stormy sea.   These friends were recognizing my struggle and offering assistance if needed and I am most grateful for their concern.

quiche for beth

In that same spirit of helping one another, a few days ago, I brought a quiche to a family mourning the loss of a loved one.   A simple offering to let them know that my heart aches too – and that they are not alone in their grief.

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”  ~Edmund Burke

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”   Maya Angelou

 

Ups and Downs

14 Aug

Closeup of Sargent pie

Apple Pie

How can it be so long since I have written?  It’s hard to believe how much time has gone by!  But to be honest, these past few months have been among the hardest of my life.

What that means is that my grand plan to figure out a way to “take care of my Dad” as he was on the road to recovering from his stroke has not been what I envisioned.  On the plus side, I have been able to get him some great medical help.   I’d heard from many folks that we have  good resources here in the Rogue Valley and have found some WONDERFUL health care professionals to assist with his many needs. To begin, I would like to offer my thanks to Dr. John Sager for he has been a tremendous help to us both.

Dad has also been fortunate to be able to work with therapists like Brandon and Marilka from Providence Hospital and they have helped him to gain some strength back (and though I did bring them a pie for their kind efforts but have no photo to show!).

Lastly, my friend Barb Street has patiently worked to select hearing aids that would help my Dad hear.   Like many folks that grew up in the Depression era, my Dad is very careful with his money.  For years he has tried to “make-do” with “hand-me-down” hearing aids but they never worked.   Last week Dad was fitted with a brand new pair that fit his ears perfectly and he could hear me when I spoke normally (not shouting).   It was amazing!

That said, I don’t know what to do next.  Dad has moved into a senior living environment for a short stay so that I can work on some catering projects but I can tell that he his not happy.   And why would he be?  His life has changed in so many ways and his daughter seems to be “bossing” him around.   Stay tuned as the journey continues….

Jonah's gluten free cake

Gluten-Free Wedding Cake

Through all of this, I want to tell you that one of the activities that has kept me grounded has been baking… such as the pie for Brandon and Marilka… and a gluten-free wedding cake for my friend Judith Anne’s son.  I’ve also experimented with a gluten-free/vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe from Babycakes and it is DELICIOUS!!!  (Please try them as soon as you get the chance… you won’t be sorry!)

Finally, yesterday I decided to bring a pie to the Sargent family of Buckhorn Springs.  This weekend, their daughter Lauren is getting married and I am spending this week helping to cater her wedding.  I wanted to thank them for putting their trust in me and allowing me to be a part of this very special time in their lives.

Sargent family pie

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook  – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.”  Julia Child

Chocolate Cream Pie… and gilding the lily

23 Jun

Tuesday evening I left my home in Oregon to take a red-eye flight across the county to “release” my Dad from the rehab facility where he’s been for the last couple of months.  The folks there say that he has reached the goals that they had set for him and that he is ready to find another place to live.  Trouble is, my Dad can’t really live alone right now and the “assisted living” place that we visited left much to be desired.   So, in a few days Dad will come and stay with me for a while.   I’ll share more about that at another time… suffice it to say that this will be a tremendous challenge for both of us.

In the time before I left, I really needed to spend some time making a pie.  It’s my way of finding my “center.”   One of my favorite types of pies is Chocolate Cream Pie and, in fact, the last two pies I have made were of this type. One pie was given to honor a new baby named “Chloe” (Congratulations to Carla and Brandon and big sister Sophia!) and the other was given to a family that I had learned was leaving the area after having been here for too short a time.   They were moving back to the mid-west to be nearer to family and as I listened to their story, I heard a touch of sadness at the prospect of leaving and knew that a pie would help ease the transition.   I mean, really, how could it not?

untopped chocolate cream pieb

When I make chocolate cream pie, I follow a recipe much like this one (but mine uses a bit of half and half in addition to the milk).   Once the filling is placed in the cookie crust (I use crushed Oreo’s or these by Newman’s Own), you must let it cool completely.  To finish the pie,  I begin by making sweetened whipped cream.  Occasionally I  will add a splash of Kahlua to the whipped cream instead of vanilla for a more scrumptious taste… but a spoonful of vanilla works just fine too.

Once the cream is whipped, I spoon it into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and then I pipe it onto the cooled pie.  Now, here is where some folks differ in what should happen next.   I think the pie looks fine as it is… but somehow I can never leave well enough alone.  Instead, I prefer to top it with a pile of chocolate shavings or a drizzle of melted chocolate or even by topping it with chocolate covered espresso beans. Someone close to me refers to this habit of mine as “gilding the lily“.    I’d love to know what you think!

chocolate cream pie before adding chocolate shavings

 

chocolate cream pie with chocolate shavings

 

chocolate cream pie with drizzlePhotos from Karen's camera 406

 

The superfluous, a very necessary thing.
Voltaire

 

Mother’s Day and a few Quiches

27 May

asparagus quiche

It seems like it has been YEARS since I have made a pie… but that is not true!  In fact, on Mother’s Day I baked a quiche and brought it to church for a friend – who did not show up that day.  That’s when I started thinking about Plan B.  After church I was talking with a few friends and mentioned that during the prayer time I had wanted us to think about “mothers without children and children without mothers” but had felt too emotional to do so.  Then one of those friends, Dr. Bill Sager, told me that forty-one years ago he was a missionary in Pakistan and received a call from his brother-in-law saying that Bill’s mother had died.  I watched as Bill’s eyes filled with tears remembering the loss of his mother and was amazed that so many years later this memory was still so vivid.   I offered Bill a hug and then thought of the quiche.  I explained that it had been meant for another, but that I hoped he would accept it instead.  Immediately Bill offered to take it to the person I had made it for (Bill is ALWAYS thinking of others) … but I told him that I think the quiche was really meant for him…. but I hadn’t known it until just then.

After Mother’s Day, I was busy with work and then last week I flew to Florida to see my Dad again.  He has been improving since he had surgery to clear his carotid artery.  He is looking better but is still living in a rehabilitation facility because he has to regain his strength and mobility.  I know that it’s been hard for him to go through this episode and at this time we are looking into “next steps” for him as he won’t be able to go home alone for a while, if ever.

On the bright side, over the last few days I have seen him show more interest in the world outside the facility.  For the first time in months I helped him to check his email and scan the world news.  Then yesterday, he wanted to watch the Indianapolis 500, and so we did (Congratulations Tony Kanaan!)  Later in the afternoon, Dad played a game of Scrabble with me, which shows incredible patience and concentration on his part.

As I was leaving last night, Dad, never one to gush, brusquely said goodbye.  I drove back to his place feeling sad and that maybe my efforts were in vain.  As I pulled into his parking place I noticed a flowering bush in front of his apartment that I had never noticed before (to be fair, most days I get back in the dark).  It was really beautiful and it stopped me in my tracks.   I realized that I had forgotten to find the beauty in each moment… and to remember that I am not alone going through this.

flowering bush

This morning  I woke up and baked an Asparagus and Cheddar Quiche to bring to my Dad.  I know that he will want to share it with some of his fellow residents and I think that that will be a perfect way to spend this Memorial Day.

A Mexican Vacation… and a Coconut Cream Pie

27 Apr

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In January my husband and I planned a trip to Mexico.  We used a companion fare ticket from Alaska Airlines and booked a trip to Barra de Navidad that would begin on April 24.  Once the plans were made, life went back to normal… until my Dad’s stroke.  Then the trip that we planned seemed unlikely… and I felt guilty for even wanting to go.

As the date to leave drew near, I spent many hours discussing insurance, surgery dates, payments for care, and myriad other details.   Once that was done I had to believe that my Dad was in good hands and that my husband and I could take a much-needed break.  We left early Wednesday morning and arrived about seven hours later in Manzanillo, Mexico.  A friend of a friend agreed to pick us up at the airport and he drove us to Barra.  We thanked him and gave him a bottle of Oregon wine for his troubles.

After a short rest, we walked down to the beach and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.  Then we bought tamales from a street vendor and ate them while sipping cold Pacifico beer.  That night we went to bed tired but happy.

The next morning I checked email (yes we are tied to our computers) and saw a message from my Dad’s case manager: Dad was taken back to the hospital. My first thoughts are unprintable but I will say, “Thank goodness for Skype!”  Immediately I called my sister and after a while we figured out that Dad had several things going on: dehydration, dizziness, and low levels of sodium.   Dad’s been in the hospital for three days now and I think that he is in the safest place he could be and the nurses at JFK have been amazingly kind and helpful dealing with his family that is so far away.

Since Dad was being well-cared for and I could not do anything for him I did what I do when I need to feel in control: I baked a pie.  This year in our little rental apartment we have a two-burner stove top and a toaster oven.  First I formed a graham cracker crust (with crumbs that I brought from home) and baked it in the little oven until it was lightly browned.  Next I mixed milk, sugar, eggs, and coconut for the filling and poured it into the crust.  We then went out in search of whipping cream to top it off but could not find any for sale in this little town so I had to settle for toasting coconut for the topping.

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Even without whipped cream I thought it turned out nicely… but who would get this lovely pie?  I thought of the people that we had come in contact with and settled on a young man who works in a shop that sells beautifully hand-woven works of art.  We asked him about the wall hangings and he told us that some of them had taken months to make.  He explained that many of those hanging had been made by other workers but that he also could weave and he first began learning to weave ten years before.

Maybe I felt a connection to that young man because I too learned my craft when I was young.  Whatever the reason, last night Emile and I walked back to the shop and brought a pie to that young man.   He was there with his girlfriend and as I gave him the pie I tried to explain in my best Spanish that the pie was a gift – to honor the beautiful pieces that he had created.   I hope that he continues to pursue his art throughout his lifetime for I believe it can make all the difference in the world.

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“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”  
Émile Zola

 

Chocolate Cream Pie, Travel Woes, and Virtual Pies for a few Angels

21 Apr

Chocolate Cream Pie

Chocolate Cream Pie

As you know, I have spent the last three weeks in Florida with my Dad after he suffered a “major” stroke.  At first it seemed that my Dad would have surgery almost immediately to clear his carotid artery, but the doctors have decided that they would like to give my Dad more time to heal and so his surgery has been postponed until mid-May.  And since my Dad’s condition appears to be improving each day, and because I had committed to a few catering events, and because I missed my husband, I decided to come back home for a while.

In the days before I left, I tried to wrap up all the loose ends for my Dad that I could: arranging for the payment of bills, handling of laundry and mail, and most importantly, his health concerns and future care.   One thing that I considered tremendously important was to convey to the nurses and aides that I want (more likely need) them to watch over my Dad when I am not there to do so.   How could I do that?  Well, being me, I thought a pie might do the trick.

My nephew Wayne and I shopped for the ingredients after we had put my Dad to bed one night and two days before I left Florida I brought a chocolate cream pie to the nurses in my Dad’s wing.   They smiled and thanked me but I felt that something was wrong.  And after thinking about it, the best explanation I have is that those nurses don’t know me at all; they certainly don’t know, or care, about my pie blog and they just might not trust food from a stranger.  And though I truly hope this isn’t true, I don’t believe that the nurses ate one bite of that pie.

In retrospect, I understand; why should they trust me? Perhaps I should have just bought another pizza, but the “pie lady” in me wanted to show my gratitude with a pie that I had made.   And it was an experience making a pie without my usual accoutrements (cuisinart, pastry bag and tips, etc) but I figured it out and was proud of the final product… and even if the pie wasn’t eaten, it was given in the spirit of gratitude, and that’s all that matters.

On the day that I left, I arrived at the airport and was told that my flight was cancelled.   Thus began a 33 hour odyssey to get back to southern Oregon.  I’ll spare you the details here, but will mention that I spent time in six different cities before I arrived home (including catching a late night nap in a major west coast city).  What I do want to share is that I met three lovely people (angels?) on my journey… each of whom had a parent who had suffered a stroke.

The first was a man that I met in Fort Lauderdale who had just lost his Mom. His name was Steve and we spent an hour or so (our flight was delayed) talking about our kids, our parents, and this crazy system we call “health care.”

The next angel I met, was a lady named Connie.  She was my seat mate for a few hours and as we talked (and prayed during the most turbulent parts of the flight) she told me about losing both of her parents.  She knew the path I was traveling and was willing to listen to me as I rambled on;  she was a great comfort simply by being there.

The last angel I met was a man named Matt.  He was born in London but now lives in northern California.  We struck up a conversation as we watched our flight time change over and over.  His Dad suffered a stroke 18 years ago and has survived; unfortunately, their relationship has not.  What was most amazing about Matt was that when we realized that I was not going to make my last connecting flight, he offered to take me home and introduce me to his wife and child so I would not have to spend the night in the airport.

Tonight, I am deeply grateful that my Dad survived his stroke… and also very grateful to those people who I met along my journey home.  I wish that I could give each of them a pie… but because I cannot, I hope that my sincerest thanks will do.  Each of them has reinforced my faith in humanity… and that is an amazing gift.

It  is by suffering that human beings become angels.
Victor  Hugo

Pizza Pie for the Nurses in rehab… and a “Virtual” Pie for Jan in Boise

10 Apr

 

Pizza Pie

Cheese Pizza from Napoli Pizzeria

Yesterday was the last day my sister Janice could be here in Florida for a while… and it was also the day our nephew Wayne arrived from Memphis.   Usually at meal times we try to eat with Dad in the dining room but on this night we decided there was cause for celebration and so we called Napoli Ristorante and Pizzeria to order a pizza.  We discovered that there was a special on Tuesdays and so instead of getting one pizza, I ordered an extra one for the nurses who have been caring for my Dad in rehab.  It seems that bringing food (which I view as showing a little love) to those who care for our loved ones is a nice thing to do because sometimes those people (who work 12 hour shifts) don’t have the chance to take care of themselves properly.   Hey, just because this blog is about pies it doesn’t mean that I have to make every one… I just have to give them away!

Dad enjoyed the little bit of pizza he ate and we were able to spend time together as a family almost oblivious to the reason that brought us all together.  It was a good moment in an otherwise very stressful time.  In fact, while Dad doesn’t look “great” in this photo, Janice and I both know how far his recovery has progressed.  Just last week he was lying in a hospital bed eating what they lovingly refer to as a “soft, mechanical” diet and yesterday he was sitting up in a wheel chair making jokes and eating pizza.  We have come a long way and I am thrilled!

Dad with Wayne, Janice and Karen

Wayne (in his Navy Uniform), Dad, Janice, and me

One last thing I’d like to share is this phone call I had with Alaska Airlines agent Jan in Boise.  I wanted to extend my visit here so that I could be present for the surgery that my Dad was scheduled to have this next week (my original ticket had me leaving yesterday morning).   When I dialed the number for Alaska and told Jan what I needed to do and why she listened, took the information, and found me a return ticket for next week.  Then she told me that the change in fare was $58 and there was also a $100 change fee.  I asked how to appeal the change fee given the circumstances and then said, “Never mind.  I’ll worry about that when I have more time.”  Jan asked me to hold a moment and a few minutes later came back on the line and told me that she had asked her supervisor and could waive the change fee for me.   I was truly amazed and deeply touched that she did this on her own; in a time like this, every act of kindness is so powerful and appreciated more than you will know.  So, to Jan in Boise I would like to send a virtual pie for her assistance and her compassion – Alaska Airlines is lucky to have you!

“There’s very little in my world that a foot massage and a thin-crust, everything-on-it pizza won’t set right.”  
―     G.A. McKevett

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