Tag Archives: Italy

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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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

 

 

Lessons in Italian

24 Oct

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In the spring of next year, we are planning to go to Italy.  My husband has a classmate who has lived in Italy for many years, and she is organizing a class reunion…  in a villa… in Tuscany.   Can you come up with any reason why we wouldn’t we want to go?   Neither can I!

italy map

Likely because he is pretty darned pragmatic, that same husband signed us both up for beginner’s Italian lessons via Ashland’s Parks and Recreation programs. However, since his work schedule is pretty full, he has had trouble making it to class.  In fact, I also missed the first class because I misread the schedule. Instead of arriving at 5 PM for class, I arrived a few minutes before 7 PM… which meant I was showing up for the first class of Advanced Italian!

Imagine my surprise when I walked in, thinking I was early, to hear the instructor loudly exclaim, “Ciao Bella!”  She then followed that with a rapid-fire series of questions.  My deer-in-the-headlights look must have given her some indication that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and soon she had me all straightened out.  What was wonderful is that I left feeling sorry that I had missed my first class rather than embarrassed by my error.

Since then, I have been to three more classes (with five to go!) and have learned a little bit more each week.   Italian is such a beautiful language to listen to and I look forward to becoming more fluent as time goes by.   Who knows?  Maybe by the time we get to Italy, I will actually know how to speak in Italian.

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If that happens, then it will be in large part due to our delightful teacher la professoressa, Ms. Rountree.  Her enthusiasm is contagious and she is making the class fun.   And because yesterday she told us that today is her birthday, I baked her an Apple Crumb Crust Pie.  When I gave it to her, I spoke these words: Buon Compleanno e Tanti Auguri per Prossimo Anno.

Mille Grazie Signora!

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”  Mark Twain

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