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.
The 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.
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.
Strawberry 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
When we first moved to Ashland in 1986, Skip was our mailman. We lived in a house on the corner of Laurel and Van Ness and felt lucky to be there. Compared to some of the apartments we’d seen around town, this one was perfect for us – mostly because it had a great big kitchen with lots of counters and lots of natural light.
We liked our new apartment and soon thereafter got to know Skip. He introduced himself to us and we both liked that he was so friendly. When Christmas came, I wanted to give something to Skip but we were both students and money was tight, and so I made him a santa ornament that I’d fashioned (and painted) out of salt dough (much like this one).
Fast forward 7 years and we have moved away from Ashland and just returned. We bought a house in “Quiet Village” and who should our mailman be but Skip! I liked that even though much had changed with us (we’d had 2 children since we’d last seen him) – Skip was still the same.
Skip continued to deliver our mail to us until he retired about 4 years ago. He invited us to his retirement party and on one table he had displayed a bunch of gifts that he’d been given over the years. Right smack in the middle of those gifts was my Santa ornament! I was touched that he’d kept it with his “treasures” from work.
Today I made a Strawberry Rhubarb pie for Skip. When I called to see if he was home, he told me that he was away for the day. I told him about my pie project and immediately he said, “you don’t know how perfect this is.” When I asked him to tell me why today was perfect he told me, “Today is my son’s 35th birthday. And it is also the 3 year anniversary of the accident.” Three years ago today Skip was riding a motorcycle, with his wife as a passenger, when he was cut off by a man who ran a red light. Skip was seriously injured in that accident, his wife was injured as well, but fortunately, they both survived and recovered.
I am so glad that I was moved to give Skip (and Janice) a pie today. I am very grateful for the friendship that he has shown to us over the years and wish them both the very best.
Fred has been living across the street from us for about five years now. We never met because his house has been behind a fence facing the other direction. The only access to his house was from the next street and down a long driveway. I think that one of the things that Fred liked about his house was that it was off by itself. That will soon change. The property surrounding Fred’s land has been sold and construction has begun as evidenced by the machinery out in front of the house.
Change is hard on us because we like things to remain the same. Even if our current situation isn’t perfect, it is the devil we know and are used to. Our neighbor Fred is going to see major changes over the next few months. As it is, he has already had his access to his home rerouted. A gate has been added behind his home so that now he enters and exits via our street instead of the one he has been using.
Since Fred and I had never met, I wondered what he might say when I came to deliver his Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. I found Fred sitting on his porch and introduced myself. He was a bit surprised but he took the pie and we started to chat. I told him a little bit about myself but then Fred began to open up and tell me stories about his life.
Fred was born in Medford and as a boy delivered newspapers in Ashland. He was a radar operator on an F94C in the Korean Conflict. He says he was one of the lucky ones that was never shot. Fred drove a Greyhound Bus for a number of years and said the most memorable trip was driving a girls choir while it was snowing. All at once the girls began singing Christmas carols. Fred said it was the prettiest ride he could remember. He also said that he’s traveled “halfway round the world and this is the best place he has found to live.”
How many of your neighbors have you taken the time to get to know? What stories might they tell you if you gave them the chance? I’ll close with the final verse of a John Prine song:
So if you’re walking down the street sometime
and you should spot some hollow ancient eyes,
don’t you pass them by and stare
as if you didn’t care.
Say, “Hello in there. Hello.”
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
As parents we are often called upon to volunteer in the various activities that our children participate in. When your children are young and playing soccer, you may be asked to bring juice and orange slices to the games. As your child grows, the tasks become a bit more challenging, but you keep helping because you want to support your kids.
For three years my son was a member of the Ashland High School Nordic Ski Team. Every year the kids on the team were incredible. They worked hard at practices and willingly competed against much larger and better funded teams. It was my son’s freshman year when the Ashland boys won third place in the state finals. When they announced “Ashland” as the winner, my son and one other boy walked up to the podium. The emcee looked at the boys and asked that all the boys come up. My son looked at him and said, “We are all the boys.” Amazing.
The club has grown in the past few years – and so has the parent participation. I have helped in my own way with the team – often by baking scones or bagels for them to eat on the long rides to their meets. There is a bit of work involved but once I have delivered my goodies, I am free to stay home (and warm!). The more dedicated parents go to the meets and since this is a nordic sport, you can bet that they spend a lot of time standing in the cold. Liz and Denny are among the parents that are willing to go to the meets and help wherever they are needed.
Liz and Denny are the owners of Mihama Teriyaki Grill. In addition to helping with the Nordic Ski Team, they have been avid supporters of the Ashland Schools Foundation. Their restaurant is located on Siskiyou Boulevard across from Southern Oregon University.
We are lucky to live in a town where so many people give up their time and talents for the benefit of our children. Tonight I would like to recognize Liz and Denny for all that they do to help our children, and our community, thrive.
When I was a little girl, the principal at my elementary school, PS 14, was a man named Mr. Leo Meltzer. The memory that I have of him is of a man who was always impeccably dressed – dark suit, dress shirt, tie and polished shoes. He was well respected but also was approachable and friendly. He would walk the halls of that old brick school house, nodding and smiling as he passed, and now and then he would visit our classrooms.
On one such visit he regaled my class with details of a recent trip that he had taken with his family to Mexico. At that time Mexico seemed about as far away as the moon to me and I was mesmerized. The hightlight of the story was when he told us that he had seen some folks eating sandwiches that looked delicious and he just had to have one. He ordered the sandwich and ate it hungrily. Only afterwards did he ask what exactly was in the sandwich. What he’d thought were fried onions turned out to be fried worms! The whole class erupted! Imagine eating worms! Yuck! But here was Mr. Meltzer standing before us, alive and well and chuckling. He had to be about the bravest person I’d ever seen!
I don’t know why I thought of Mr. Meltzer today, and since he died so many years ago, I could not honor him with a pie. Instead, I tried to think of someone who shared some of his qualities: approachable, friendly, well respected, willing and able to laugh. Today I decided to recognize the principal of Ashland High School, Michelle Zundel, with a pie (yet another Strawberry Rhubarb – but I promise tomorrow will be different!) in honor of Mr. Meltzer. Michelle earns her stripes everyday and I am very grateful for the care and effort that she puts forth to inspire, encourage and teach our students.
Several years ago I decided I wanted to go back to school and earn my Master’s Degree. My children were older and did not need me as much and I wanted to focus on me for a while. One day soon thereafter a group of instructors from Southern Oregon University‘s School of Business were having lunch at our restaurant and my husband encouraged me to talk with them about my decision. One of the instructors was a woman named Hart and she was in charge of the Master in Management (MiM) program at SOU. Hart told me that The MiM program is an advanced degree for “people who lead.” It sounded like it would be a good fit and a few days later I applied for the program.
For the next two years, I attended classes, met many new people, relearned some old information and was introduced to new concepts. At times it was incredibly difficult but Hart was always there to talk me through it. I poured my heart out to her on more than one occasion, and personally think that she should have invested in Kleenex based on my tears alone. But Hart was there for everyone – not just me. She’s a mixture of so many juxtapositions: Hart loves a good joke but is serious when it comes to work; she is sympathetic when you have a problem but demands that you do your best work. She was a good mentor for me (and many others) and I am very glad that I got to know her.
When I brought Hart her pie and told her that it was Strawberry Rhubarb (I swear, the garden is sprouting this plant faster than I can pick it!) she was delighted. And I was delighted to present her with a small token of appreciation for her endless dedication to her students.