Archive | May, 2011

Day 44: Karen

21 May

Yesterday I got an email from my friend Karen telling me that she was going to have a yard sale on Saturday. If you know anything about me, you know that I love yard sales. I don’t know when this habit began, but I love to find something at a yard (or estate) sale and breathe new life into it by using it myself or by giving it to a friend.  I think reusing things is an honorable trait and by doing so we help to conserve resources and also reduce what we send to the landfill.

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

A few years ago I met Karen at one of her yard sales.  She had a dress for sale that another woman got to before I had a chance.  As the woman considered the dress I watched and hoped and waited.  Luckily, the woman decided that the dress was not becoming to her and she set it down and I was able to take it home. It is one of my favorite dresses and I felt so fortunate to find it.

I’ve gone to a few of Karen’s sales over the years and in the course of that time we have become friends.  When I heard that she was having this latest sale I begged to be let in early with a bribe of scones.  Karen then welcomed me to view her sale a day early.  And since I know that she is very busy – and preparing to move to Portland – I asked if I could bring her a quiche.  It is a simple gesture to thank her for passing on many of her treasures to me.  I offer my sincerest thanks and I wish her the very best in this move and always.

Day 43: Jamie

20 May

Today was a busy day but I had planned for that… and early on I knew that I wanted to make a pie for Jamie.  Jamie is the mom of my son’s friend Taylor, and they have been friends since fifth grade.

It ‘s kind of funny that we are both the parents of (nearly) 18 year old children but we are from somewhat different generations. I guess what matters most is that we care about our kids and we are willing to do all that we can to help them.  It is really nice to know that there are other mom’s looking out for my kid.

Frittata in iron skillet

That was the case when I was growing up.  Seems you could never step out of line before someone noticed.  It didn’t matter that your Mom was somewhere else; if there was a Mom in the neighborhood, chances are that you were in trouble.

I don’t think that that was a bad thing.  I think kids need to know that there are folks looking out for them – and that those folks are willing to call them out for doing something that is not right.  We’ve all heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.”  How many of us really subscribe to that motto?  How many of us are willing to love a child that we did not birth?  Our children need to know that they are loved for who they are  – and it helps if they hear that from people that aren’t their parents.

Tonight I want to offer Jamie my thanks for being another parent to my son.  She has helped him most by accepting him for who he is.  And for that I am most grateful.

For Jamie I made a “special” pie because she is gluten intolerant.  Today she received a sausage and spinach frittata.  It is a small token of my appreciation to her for her willingness to support my son as he journeys to adulthood.

Day 42: Karen O

19 May

At one point today Karen O entered my mind and I thought that I might surprise her with a pie.  And then I thought that she might appreciate a quiche more because she is a very busy woman and might need help with dinner.  As I prepared the vegetables I thought back to when I first met her and realized that I have known Karen for more than 25 years. She was a friend of my husband’s and became my friend as well.  Though we don’t see each other often, there is never a distance between us.  One of the things I like most about her is that when she asks you a question, she listens to the answer.

About ten years ago, my daughter, and a group of girls, took a course with Karen that helped them navigate the transition from being a “girl”  to becoming young women.  At the end of the course, my daughter and I participated in a Mother-Daughter weekend that Karen organized.  There were about 8 mother/daughter pairs at the workshop.  It was an emotional weekend for many of us – for our little girls were now stepping into the realm of womanhood.

I appreciated all the effort that Karen put forth to make the weekend special.  She had arranged for yoga instruction, arts and crafts, meals, and live music.  As darkness fell at the end of the second day, we were shown a labyrinth and told that we all were to walk the labyrinth and when we found our path, we were to exit.  One by one women and girls entered, walked and exited the maze.  When it was my turn, I began walking and kept on walking.  Finally my daughter, who had already walked the maze, came up behind me and asked me why I was still walking.  I told her that I could not find my way out and she stepped in front of me and told me to follow her. She then lead me out of the maze. It was one of the highlights of the weekend for me – for I felt that we were not just parent and child, we were becoming friends.

I want to thank Karen for all that she has done to recognize the importance of coming of age rituals.  In this modern world we tend to overlook them and they are too important to ignore.

 I forgot to take a picture of the quiche I made so instead I am posting a picture of me with my grown up daughter in Copenhagen last December.

Day 41: Gayle

18 May

When my daughter was about a year old I wanted to start working a few hours a week.  I began to look around for a daycare provider with whom I felt comfortable leaving her. By some miracle, I was referred to Gayle.  I think that that was one of my luckiest moments.  I called Gayle and she told me that she would only take children aged 2 and older, but she invited me to stop by for a visit.  While there, I noticed that the children in her charge were all actively playing and seemed to get along. Gayle engaged my daughter in a conversation and decided that she could take her into her care.

A few weeks later, when I went to pick up my daughter, Gayle told me that she had bit another child.  “Oh no.”  I thought, this is when Gayle tells me that my daughter can’t come back to daycare.  But it was only a few moments later when Gayle said,”You know, he had it coming.  He was tormenting her and she is too young to use her words to tell him to stop and so she bit him.”  We were not kicked out but I did have to have a talk with my daughter about not biting.  And I know that my daughter loved her time with Gayle.

Several years later, after a move to Portland and back, I was looking for a daycare again, this time for my son, and thought of Gayle.  By some strange miracle, I found out that we now lived just one block apart.  I brought my son over to Gayle’s and he seemed at home right away.  What I forgot to mention is that Gayle has a Master’s degree in Art and she has created some incredibly beautiful works of art – sculptures, paintings, drawings.  Imagine the lessons that the children in her care received!

One day my son brought home a piece of construction paper with tiny bones glued to it.  I asked him about it and he told me that the bones were from a bird.  I then asked where the bones came from.  He told me that they came from an owl pellet.  What is an owl pellet?  It is the dried remains the owl has excreted (the bones and other things that it could not digest). Wow.  I was so very happy that Gayle was willing to find owl pellets and break them up so that my son could find these bones.  I can (almost) guarantee you that he would not have learned that lesson from me!

Tonight I brought Gayle an asparagus and pepper quiche.  I thought she might appreciate a dinner since she spends so much time looking after other people. I am so very grateful that she was there to be a positive influence in the lives of my children.  We were lucky indeed.

Day 40: Darte

17 May

I met Darte about fifteen years ago.  She was (and still is) an artist and she was getting married; I was a caterer and was thrilled to be asked to cater a wedding. We met and talked about what kinds of offerings she wanted to have at the reception. I liked that Darte gave me plenty of freedom to create a very special occasion.  In fact, I think it was a memorable event for both of us.

It is funny how you can live very near your friends but still find it hard to find time to visit with them.  Darte and I live less than 10 miles apart but we seldom see each other, and that just seems wrong. Why do we limit ourselves to occasional visits with friends when we can (and maybe should) find time to see them more often.  What important things are we doing? Or are we just lazy?

Tonight I tracked down Darte at a party and gave her a spinach and pepper quiche.  I think that sometimes artists find it hard to find time to cook because they are creating “works of art.”  Meanwhile, I am creating works of art as well – but my “art” is much more temporal.

Day 39: Pie and Life

16 May

Today I wanted to show some photos I took while making a lattice top pie crust. These pies are really fairly easy to make but take a little practice – and even then while the pie may not look “perfect” chances are it will taste incredible anyway.

The pictures are pretty self-explanatory but I wanted to point out that once the strips of dough are cut,  you lay every other one on top of the pie.  This helps guarantee that when you turn the pie, and start weaving the remaining strips with the first ones, that you will have strips that are long enough to reach across the pie.  As you weave the strips you are following a basic pattern of over and under.  This means that you will need to lift the strips as you go under.  Just take your time and have fun.  The pie I made today shows a goof-up here and there but I’ll just say I was up early making this pie and perhaps needed more coffee.

My friend Deb suggested today’s pie recipient because of several recent events; one, losing a beloved pet – the other, his son’s family moving in. The first a loss, the second surely a gain.  Life is like that – sometimes it is terribly sad and at other times it is full of joy and wonder.  This day I am recognizing my friend Scott and want to offer my condolences on the loss of his dog and wish him a wonderful adventure with his lovely family.

Day 38: Jan

15 May

Today I googled a recipe for Apple Pie because I wanted to make a pie with apples but I wanted to try something new.  I found this recipe by Grandma Ople and thought about it.  I liked the idea but wanted to know that all the apples were coated with the syrup and so instead of following the recipe I did this: I made the syrup and then I tossed the apples with it – but I also added about a cup of sliced almonds to the mixture.  Then I put all of that into a pie shell and baked it.  When it came out of the oven it looked like this:

It didn’t take long to figure out who this pie belonged to – her name is Jan.  I met her when we were both volunteers with the SMART reading program.  She is smart and funny and we clicked right away.  Soon after we met she asked if I would consider becoming a member of PEO, which is a philanthropic organization that raises money for women’s college scholarships. I was tickled that Jan asked me to join – and loved spending time with her  – and I have been with PEO five years now.

I called Jan this morning as her pie was baking and asked if I could stop by.  When I got to her house she told me that her birthday is in a few weeks but she is leaving in just a few days to visit her children in Seattle.  If I’d have waited, I would have missed her. I was able to gift her with a pie just in time.  How cool is that?

DAy 37: Miss Lee

14 May

This morning when I woke up, I had no idea who today’s pie recipient would be.  As we went for our walk I considered different people, and while they were all good candidates, I felt that I needed to keep thinking about it.  When we got back from our walk I just began to bake a pie and knew that the “person” would come to me somehow or other.

I decided to focus instead on the process of making the pie for in a way it is a kind of meditational “practice” for me.  First, I take my dough (I am making pie dough in batches so that I only need to make a batch once a week) and my silpat and my rolling pin.  Then I begin to roll out the dough. The dough is tender and so I handle it gently, and continue rolling it out until it is large enough for the pie pan.  Next, I trim the dough so that there is just enough of an edge to fold under. When the edge is folded, it is then time to make it look pretty.  It is easy for me to do this because over the years I have made hundreds ( perhaps thousands?) of pies. Think about the things that you do easily today.  Perhaps they weren’t always easy but because you wanted to know how to do them, they became easy because you practiced them over and over again.  That’s what it has been like for me with baking – I became good at it because I did it all the time.

Today after I made this pie (Apple Walnut) I knew that the recipient had to be someone special because it was a beautiful pie.  And almost immediately I knew who the recipient would be.  I called Lee to see if she was still in town because each spring she goes to Alaska to fish and I was worried that I might have missed her.  Well, I was lucky – she wasn’t leaving for three days!

Lee was my son’s kindergarden teacher at Helman Elementary. She came to our house before school started in 1998 to meet us and my son.  He was a bit shy but seemed to like her right away.  That year Lee had 15 boys and 5 girls in her class.  I couldn’t imagine how I would handle all those energetic children, and Lee did it with a quiet grace. I never heard her raise her voice and loved how she  kept their attention. Maybe it was her New England accent, her sense of wonder, or her gentleness – I don’t know – but my son was very fond of Miss Lee.

At the end of the that year, after Miss Lee had gone to Alaska, I was shopping with my son and he saw a guitar shaped brooch and told me that we needed to buy it for Miss Lee because she played the guitar.  I told him that she was already gone for the summer.  He told me that he could give it to her when school began again in the Fall.  I was impressed that he thought enough of Lee to want this pin for her and so I bought it.  My son kept the pin in his bureau until school started and he brought it to Lee on his first day back to school.  She was delighted with the pin and wore it often.  And each time she did so, she would make sure to point it out to my son.  I don’t know who felt more special – Lee  for getting the gift or my son for giving it.

It was wonderful to visit with Lee  today and hear about her family and their tradition of fishing which has been going on for many decades. She showed  me pictures of her family and shared with me some of her history.  As I was leaving, she told me that I had made her day by giving her the pie.  It doesn’t seem like much at all because she made my son’s first year of school so very special.

Day 36: Another year as a SMART volunteer comes to a close

13 May

Today was the “end of year” celebration for the SMART program at Helman Elementary. SMART stands for “Start Making A Reader Today.”The SMART reading program helps kids become confident readers by providing individual volunteer attention and new, take-home books every month. I have been a SMART volunteer for many years and love spending time reading with the children and watching them as they pick up clues and begin to learn to read. While it is not our job to teach kids to read, I think we support that process and I do my best to instill a love for reading.

As a volunteer for this program, I feel that my responsibility is to be a good role model and a caring adult. Occasionally, I am reminded that some of the children face challenges that I cannot begin to imagine. When I volunteered in Portland, I showed up and the little girl that I read to was absent. The next week as we walked to the SMART room, I asked her if she had been sick that week. Very casually she told me “No. My dad was hitting my Mom and we called the police and they took him away.” I was grateful that she was not looking at me at the time because I was stunned. It felt insignificant to be there to read with her when she faced much greater obstacles. I suppose that, at the least, it was a welcome respite for her.

Fortunately, that sort of thing has been rare in my time as a SMART volunteer… most of the time it’s just about reading good books with emerging readers. I have loved the time I have spent with this program and think that helping a child learn to love reading is a wonderful way to make a difference in their life.

Today I made an Apple Blueberry Pie for my SMART coordinator, Sam.  If you live in Jackson County and would like to learn more about SMART, please contact Julie Brimble @ 541-734-5628.

Day 35: First Grade with Gail

12 May

About twelve years ago my son entered first grade at Helman Elementary School in Ashland.  He’d had a great year in kindergarden and we were excited about the new year.  Early in October the first parent-teacher conferences were held.  We scheduled an appointment and when the time came we set off to meet to talk with the new teacher.  As we walked to the school my son said, “I think my teacher is going to say that I need to be left back.”  Left back?  When I asked him why he thought that he wouldn’t say much. When we arrived at the classroom we met Gail.  She was smiling and greeted us warmly.  I asked my son to tell Gail what he’d just told us.  After he did, Gail asked him why he thought that and he told her that the girls at his table were already reading and writing and he couldn’t do either of those things.  Gail just smiled and said, “Well, girls usually are faster at reading and writing than boys.  But what you should know is that those girls are in second grade!”  My son did not realize that  he was in a blended first/second grade classroom and had been worried that he was way behind when in fact he was right on course.  With Gail’s reassurance he never worried about being left back again.

This year, my son and Gail are both “moving on” together.  He is graduating from Ashland High and Gail is retiring.  They are both embarking on journeys that are exciting, scary and new.  I have no fears for either of them as they face the future because they are both wonderful people -and have the skills necessary to succeed – they are smart, caring, and positive.  I look forward to hearing about their adventures – wherever life may take them.

Today I made Gail a Spinach and Pepper Quiche.  I thought that a gift of dinner might come in handy – and she said I was right.  Isn’t it great when things come together like that?