Tag Archives: gifts

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

Baking: An exact science or a way of life?

10 Jan

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

As many of you might imagine, I often have something baking in the oven at my house.  For me, baking has become as natural as breathing… and almost as life-sustaining.   As I child, I jumped at the chance to bake, and eventually became good at it.  Sure, I’ve had my share of baking mishaps – my first pie falling in the oven, my first loaf of bread that was so heavy it could have served as a doorstop,  but that is to be expected.  When we are learning a new skill, mistakes come with the territory. But when we make a mistake, we learn a lesson… and if we pay attention, we rarely do the same thing again.

When I was a young teen, my Mom told me that she would show me how to make Cinnamon Swirl Bread which was a big deal because my Mom really didn’t like to bake.  Together, we made a batch of bread dough and let it rise.  Once risen, my Mom took the dough and rolled it out into a rectangular shape and brushed it with melted butter.  Then she did something that seemed strange to me at the time.  She took the cinnamon-sugar mixture and placed it all one of the long sides of the rectangle, and then she rolled up the dough.  “But how does the cinnamon swirl happen?” I asked her, confused.  “That happens in the oven” my Mom explained as we put the loaves into their pans for the second rise.  It seemed magical to me and I couldn’t wait to see the finished loaves.

Well, now I know that’s not how it works.  When we took the loaves out of the oven, they looked beautiful, and smelled even better.  When we could wait no longer, we cut into the bread and discovered a “log” of cinnamon sugar in the center of each loaf.  There was no magic;  my Mom had just misunderstood  the directions.  Once we discovered the mistake, we laughed until we cried (and ate up every last crumb!)  I’m glad that my Mom made that mistake because in doing so she gave me the permission to do so as well.  What a gift!

Which reminds me of a conversation I had while visiting a friend recently.  Catherine was a nurse in the Navy, worked as an emergency room nurse, and is currently a nursing supervisor.  As I helped her clean up after dinner, she mentioned to me that she had been inspired by my year of pies and said that she could never do what I had done.  I was embarrassed because what she does everyday seems so much more inspiring.  Then I asked Catherine if she liked to bake.  She told me that because baking is such an exact science, she didn’t really do much baking.  Wow.  Perhaps because she deals with life and death issues all the time, she doesn’t want to add one more “science” to her load at the end of the day.  Who could take that kind of pressure?  In her job, if Catherine makes a mistake, someone could die, whereas in mine, we just end up with something that’s imperfect (at best) or headed to the trash (at worst).   Luckily for me, my job is much more forgiving.

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Apple Blueberry Pie

As is usual, I made a few pies this last week.  One was sent to a woman I’ve never met.  She read this blog and told me a bit about herself and the challenges she was facing and asked to be considered for a chocolate pie, and because I could, I sent her one.  It was the same Brownie Pie recipe that I’ve mailed to others (and the only “pie” that I feel comfortable mailing) but sending it off to this “new” friend felt like I was offering a glimmer of hope for better times.

The other pie that I made this week went to a friend who recently had a fire in her home.  When we spoke, she told me about all the things that have happened in her life in the last few years.  Just listening, I felt tired for her and so I asked her, can I bake you a pie?  “Oh you’re sweet” she said, “but you don’t have to do that.”  I know, but that’s part of the fun… I don’t have to do this “pie baking stuff”… I want to.  It makes me happy to do it, and I’ve noticed that the happiness doesn’t end with me; it tends to spread.  And that is a good thing.

Before I go, I wanted to mention that I also baked a few other treats this week because on January 24, I will be teaching a gluten-free baking class at the Ashland Food Coop and I wanted to test my recipes for clarity, timing, etc.  I’m very excited to have the opportunity to share my love of baking with others and I want to thank Mary Shaw at the coop for encouraging me to do this.

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Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It’s our privilege and adventure to discover our own special light.” Mary Dunbar

 

Day 326: Celebration of Life

26 Feb

Today I spent many hours preparing food for a celebration of life service. It was my honor to do so and I was touched by the trust that had been bestowed on me.  It was important to me to return that trust and so I worked very hard to make sure that everything that I made was as good as it could be.

When all the preparations were completed, the celebration service began.  The moderator opened with a moment of silence.  Afterwards friends and family members shared their special memories about a man who was well-loved and who will be missed very much.

After the service, I realized that I had yet to deliver my pie of the day.  I’d made it for a friend of mine but when I called tonight, she did not answer.  As it was nearing nightfall, I thought I would find someone in need of dinner and honor my friend another day.

After a short ride through the downtown plaza in Ashland, I spotted several outdoor urban dwellers and parked my car.  As I approached the men, I held out the quiche and asked if they would like it.  Immediately they both began thanking me and said that they would bring the quiche to the church shelter to share with the others who were there.  As I left, they thanked me again and wished me a good evening.

As I was driving home I was struck by this thought: I put the same attention and care into the feast as I did with the quiche and it does not matter who receives our gifts; what is more important is that we use them.

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
– Mother Teresa

 

 

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