Tag Archives: Emile

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

 

What Matters Most….

30 Sep

One silver quarter; two “train-flattened” quarters

One of my favorite hobbies is collecting coins.  I’ve done this for years and love the thrill of finding a new coin for my collection.  I don’t know why I have this fascination with coins… but I imagine it has something to do with the fact that my Dad was a coin collector.

While Emile and I were traveling back east last week, we had the chance to take an early morning walk along the Hudson River.   We followed a seldom used path that was near the train tracks and walked and talked our way through an hour or two.  Twice we saw trains from the city speed past us;  sleek and powerful they thundered by and were gone.

As we neared our destination, I noticed that this was the first time where a road met the train tracks.   That meant that people could get to the tracks easily in this location… and if that is true, then there was a good chance that we might find what I call “train coins.”  These are coins that have been left on the tracks and that have been smushed by the trains as go by.  I’ve heard it’s illegal to put a coin on the track (a train might derail) so I never put a coin on the track, but I have collected quite a few coins after they’ve been left there by others.

On this day, Emile found the first coin.  It turned out to be a smushed quarter.  You could still feel the ridge on the outer edges of the coin, but it was nearly doubled in size.  Where there is one “train” coin, there are likely to be others… and within minutes, I too found one.   Sounds silly, but finding these coins felt as if we’d won a scavenger hunt.  Then later that day, after I’d made a purchase I heard a distinctive sound as the clerk dropped the change into my hand.  It was the sound of a silver coin.   What a fun surprise!

Recently, a family that we know had a surprise of their own.  Early one morning a few weeks ago, a fire erupted in their home.  Fortunately, the husband, his wife, and their son, all escaped injury.   Unfortunately, they lost everything in the fire.  It was devastating.  But since that day, the family has been amazed by the friends and family and members of the community who have rallied to their aid.

The Chocolate Pecan Pie I brought for the Knudsen family

Yesterday we attended a fundraiser for the family at the lodge on Mt. Ashland.  Mt. Ashland is a special place for this family because Malone, the husband, has been working there for many years, and it is also the place where he met his wife, Sasha.  It was a beautiful day on the mountain and a large group of friends came to wish the family well and offer their support as they danced to music performed by members of the East Main Band.

Near the end of the event, Sasha sang with the band for a few numbers, but before leaving the stage she spoke to the crowd.  As I listened to her thank everyone for what they’d done, I watched Malone.  His glistening eyes were on his wife – and the love, admiration, and gratitude he felt was palpable.  In fact, by the time Sasha finished speaking, most of the eyes in the room were tear-filled.

It was an important reminder that while there are material things that we enjoy (in my case, coins), what really matters in life is being with the people that we love.  Anything beyond that is just a bonus.

In the end, what matters most is how well you lived, how well you loved, and how well you learned to let go.  Unknown

Donations for the Knudsen family can be made at the Umpqua Bank in Talent, Oregon (541) 535-3394.

Day 281: Mark and Betty

12 Jan

Marionberry Cream Cheese Tart

Many years ago my husband and I worked together at Geppetto’s restaurant to help pay our way through Southern Oregon University.   Emile was an experienced line cook and I worked a variety of positions including host, prep cook and baker.  One of the people that we worked with there was Mark.  He was a line cook but he also waited tables occasionally.

One of my fondest memories from that time occurred during the period when I was pregnant with my daughter.  During my second trimester I always seemed to be hungry.  But not for just anything – I craved protein.  At school each day I ate a tuna salad sandwich and drank a quart of milk for lunch.  After school I would walk to Geppetto’s (on the days that I worked) and by the time I got there I was ravenous. When Mark was cooking on the line, he would make me a breakfast sandwich almost as soon as he saw me come in. I really appreciated that. It was amazing how much food I consumed!

Yet even though Mark helped to keep me fed, he also teased me mercilessly about my expanding belly.  Finally one day I brought in a tape measure to compare our waist sizes.  Lo and behold, when we put the tape around our waists, they measured within an inch of each other… and Mark was not expecting.  He quit teasing me after that.

I knew that surprising Mark would be difficult and so I called him to tell him that I wanted to bring him a pie.  It was then that he told me that his Mom, Betty, might be a better pie recipient because she would enjoy sharing it with her friends.  And so today I brought a Cream Cheese Tart topped with Marionberries for Betty… but once Mark saw it, he said that he just might want to taste it before she took it home.    And that my dear is a compliment…  from my good friend Mark (aka Badger).

The best kind of friend is the one you could sit on a porch with, never saying a word, and walk away feeling like that was the best conversation you’ve had.  ~Author Unknown

Day 267: Richard

29 Dec

For the past year and a half my husband, Emile, has been working for the Medford Food Coop. This coop opened in August after a long process and it seems to be gaining ground each day. There is an amazing group of people working to make sure that this venture succeeds and we are so very happy that they we have them on our team.

In addition to the great management team, Emile and I are both thankful for the encouragement and support from the Ashland Food Coop, and especially from the manager of the Ashland Coop, Richard Katz. Richard has been a friend and mentor for years but in this last year he has been an incredible source of support. He has shared his expertise and willingly offered his time whenever needed. That support has been invaluable to Emile and his team in Medford.

Today a young lady, Laurel, began interviewing me about this “pie project.” She filmed me as I made my pie and asked questions about various aspects of the whole process. I told Laurel that I wanted to give today’s pie to Richard and she agreed to meet me at the Ashland coop to film the delivery of the pie. And with all that going on I forgot to take a picture of today’s pie! It was a lovely Apple Crumb Crust pie… and I am embarrassed that I forgot to capture a photo of it.

But on the up side, it was fun to have someone film the “delivery” of a pie, for that has not been done before. And to see Richard’s smile when he saw the pie was great… the icing on the cake as it were. The gift of a pie is a small gesture but I hope he knows how much his support has meant and how grateful we are for his continued friendship.

Day 191: Ramiro and Beatriz

14 Oct

We met Ramiro and Beatriz Padilla from El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant more than ten years ago. Our family would go to their restaurant after skiing on Sundays at Mt. Ashland. We liked the atmosphere, the friendly service, and the fact that El Tapatio was family owned. It became a sort of ritual for us and we enjoyed being among the “regular” customers.

Over time, Ramiro and his family have become more and more involved in our community: Ramiro is an active member of the Ashland Rotary Club, the Padilla family organizes a huge entry in the Fourth of July parade every year, complete with participants outfitted in traditional Mexican dress and caballeros on horseback, and El Tapatio has donated food to such activities as the Ashland Schools Foundation calling nights and the Ashland High School Senior All Night.

Since it had been a while since we visited El Tapatio, and several years since all four of us (me, Emile, Alexandra and Coco) had the chance to go together, Alexandra offered to treat us all to dinner tonight. It was fun to sip Margaritas, listen to the guitar music and share a family dinner.

Tonight I brought Ramiro and Beatriz an Apple Pie to congratulate them on the birth of their baby daughter, Beatriz, and also to thank them for always making us feel like part of the family.

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