Archive | June, 2011

Day 85: Donna

30 Jun

Today my friend Donna was returning after a busy month of traveling abroad and I thought that she might appreciate a fresh apple pie to welcome her home. I started out the day by rolling out my crust and then peeling the apples for the filling.

One of the recipes that I found while I was researching for this blog was named after someone’s grandma. Seems this grandma cooked up a syrup instead of mixing the apples with sugar, flour and cinnamon, and then poured it over the apples in the pie crust. So today I made a syrup with butter, flour, sugar, cinnamon and apple juice and tossed it with the sliced apples and then arranged them in the crust. Oh, and I also tossed in a cup or so of sliced almonds.

The pie took about an hour and fifteen minutes to bake but when it came out of the oven, it really looked delicious. The apples and the almonds were lightly browned and the crust was practically perfect! I was anxious to deliver this pie for I was very pleased with how it had turned out.

Early this evening I went to Donna’s house and brought her the pie. She was delighted to receive it and asked if I was doing a fundraiser. I told her that this “project” was more along the lines of a gratitude journal with food and I left her to settle in. I hope that Donna is able to get some rest and am very grateful for her presence in the world. Friends like her are really great to have around!

Day 84: Joanie

29 Jun

If you’ve lived in Ashland a while, you probably knew Joanie. When I came to Ashland in the fall of 1986, I began hearing about her from her friends and co-workers at a restaurant called Geppetto’s. Joanie had painted a mural and her artwork was on the menu and the awning. It was easy to sense her presence even though she was not around. And it was hard not to be impressed and a bit in awe of her.

Joanie and I didn’t share a lot of history – I arrived in Ashland after she had moved away and was amazed at the wake that she had left behind. When I finally did meet Joanie, I was a little bit intimidated, but I loved how she was not afraid to speak her mind. That is not something I was encouraged to do.

The biggest bond Joanie and I shared was my daughter, Alexandra. They shared a kindred spirit and a fearlessness that I cannot fathom. When we attended Joanie’s wedding in Seattle, my daughter (who was 2 1/2 at the time) was restless in the pew and fought to be set down. I gave in and put her down and turned my back for a moment and when I looked again, she was gone from my sight. I didn’t know what to do or where to look for her and then I heard laughter. My daughter had left me and gone up to the alter where Joanie and Tucker were, and she was picking up rose petals, oblivious to the audience that was there.

Today is Joanie’s birthday and this morning I brought an apple crumb crust pie to the Jefferson Public Radio studio at Southern Oregon University to honor her memory. May she forever live on in our hearts.

Day 83: Nancy

28 Jun

Today is my sister Nancy’s birthday. If you are old enough to remember, Frank Sinatra sang a song about his daughter Nancy. It was called “Nancy, with the laughing face.” That was my sister. She was always smiling and making jokes – and she had little reason to laugh.

Nancy was born with a lung disease called Cystic Fibrosis, but at that time the disease was not yet named. My parents were told that she had asthma and that’s what we all believed to be true. Nancy’s breathing at times was labored and when she became upset, she could become sick. I was actually jealous of Nancy when we were told that we could not leave the table until we finished (whatever it was) and then she would begin to gag and toss up whatever we were being “forced” to eat. “Gee” I wondered, “How do you do that?” because I always had to stay at the table and eat, while Nancy was excused.

We did not know that Nancy had CF until she was about 15. Until that time, her ENT (ear, nose and throat) doc was treating her for sinus problems! For the record, he never spoke to us after Nancy was tested for, and diagnosed with, CF. I really never forgave him for that.

Back to Nancy. She was not supposed to have children because it was too much of a risk. But for Nancy, not having kids was a much greater risk. I am sure that she wanted to leave a legacy because she knew that her time here was limited. She raised two boys, Jimmy and Wayne, and they were her reason for living. She was so proud of them… and I think now I know that she knew she would live on through them.

The last time I talked to my sister she told me a joke: A woman goes to the doctor and says,”Every time I sneeze I have an orgasm.” And the doctor replies, “And what are you taking for this?” and the woman replies “Pepper.” It was so like her to make me laugh at a difficult time – for Nancy was getting ready for a blood transfusion. And, unfortunately, it was too much for her ravaged body to handle. At the young age of 34, we lost Nancy.

One of her doctors asked my sister and me if we would consider donating Nancy’s eyes – for they were not damaged by her disease- and could help someone see. One solace in losing Nancy, is knowing that someone has gained their sight. And if they also had Nancy’s eyes, they would be beautiful.

Today, in honor of my sister Nancy, I brought an Apple Pie to the Pulmonary Consultants of Medford, for they help people who have Cystic Fibrosis. I wanted to thank them for helping their patients who are suffering. It is my fervent wish that this disease be eliminated.

My sisters Janice, Nancy and Me

Day 82: Karen’s Birthday

27 Jun

Today is my friend Karen’s birthday. I’ve always remembered the date because it is one day before my sister Nancy’s birthday. Karen and I met many years ago when our daughters were in first grade at Helman Elementary. Karen was the first person, who was not our neighbor, who invited our family over to dinner. And while I don’t recall what it was exactly that drew our girls together, I know that they both were redheads and they liked to play dress-up. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Karen grew up here in Ashland, while I was a transplant from New York. She has been a go-to person when I wanted to know the story behind the story. Karen and I have had some shared history: our daughters were our first bond, but we also worked together for a number of years and I have gotten to know many of her relatives quite well. It’s nice to feel so connected to a long time Ashland family.

When I brought Karen her birthday pie (Double Crust Apple) she was at work at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We chatted for a few minutes and talked a bit about the problem with the cracked beam at the Bowmer Theatre. She told me that many of the theatre patrons have been understanding and supportive and how much that is appreciated. She said “This is not a tragedy. It is an inconvenience. A tragedy would have been if the beam had fallen and hurt or killed people.”

I think that this is a really great way to look at this situation and I like that Karen can see the silver lining in otherwise grey clouds. Thanks for being a good example, Karen. Happy Birthday!

Day 81: Bob

26 Jun

Marionberry Pie

This morning I was invited to a brunch put on by my friends Mark and Leslie. There was a wonderful assortment of friends and foods and we settled in for a nice visit. A short time later, our friend Katrina arrived. It had been a while since we’d spoken and so we sat together and chatted for a while.

Katrina told me that she had learned some things recently that had helped her. Then she mentioned spending time with her neighbor Bob earlier today and how much his words had meant to her. I know what she means; it’s really nice when a friend helps you just by being there with you and listening to your story. Sometimes we need someone to point out things to us that are so obvious to everyone else but that we seem unable to see.

Immediately I wanted to make a pie for Bob for sharing his wisdom and compassion with Katrina, who then shared hers with me. I asked her if that would be possible and she thought it was and we made arrangements for me to deliver the pie later in the afternoon. When I arrived at Katrina’s house we discovered that Bob had gone out for a while. She called him (having just been given his cell number!) and told him that there was a surprise waiting at home for him.

Soon Bob came home and we walked to his house with the pie. He asked why I’d made him a pie and I tried to briefly explain my project and mentioned that I was making a pie everyday. “Everyday?” he asked. “Well, today is day 81” I replied. Bob stopped in his tracks and said, “Did you say 81? Did you know that I am 81 years old?”

No, I did not – but I love that Bob’s age and my pie gift to him had the same number. It’s the little coincidences like that that keep me thinking that this project is divinely inspired – and I am so very glad to be on this journey.

Day 80: Jay

25 Jun

Quiche Lorraine

When I first visited Ashland in the early eighties, one of the first people that I was introduced to was Jay. Jay worked at a local restaurant and was kind of a celebrity. He was living in a small “house” affectionately referred to as the “love shack.” Jay knew all that was going on around town and knew where the people in the know were. I guess you could say that he was plugged into this community.

Jay seemed to know everyone and has friends in many places. I heard a story that when Meryl Streep was in the Rogue Valley filming “The River Wild” a friend of Jay’s spoke about him to Ms. Streep. Not long after, Ms. Streep stopped by the restaurant where Jay was working just to say hello. The guy has a certain je ne sais quoi about him!

For a while, I worked alongside Jay. He was a waiter and I worked in the kitchen making special desserts. One special memory that we share was when we delivered food to the Britt Festival for a special show that benefitted a local not for profit organization. I was asked to make a birthday cake for Jackson Browne which was in itself an honor. Then Jay and I were given backstage passes and were privileged to serve dinner to Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Brown and John Trudell. It was truly an amazing night.

It’s been a busy week and somehow I did not find out it was Jay’s birthday until a few days after the fact. Today, I made Jay a Quiche Lorraine and brought it to him. He’s been my friend for 25 years and we have shared a lot in that time. I want to thank him for his friendship, wish him a very Happy Birthday, and hope that he has many happy years to come.

Day 79: Sheryl

24 Jun

Tonight we expected guests for dinner. They included Bob Mutchler, his wife Suz, daughers Annie and Claire and brother Dwight and sister Cheryl. Somehow, we had a few more guests than anticipated, but we still had enough food to go around.

We’ve known Bob and Suz for more than twenty four years and I met Bob’s twin sister Sheryl at his wedding. Sheryl was 8 months pregnant at the time but weighed under 100 lbs. She was as we east coasters affectionately referred to thin people, “a skinny melink.” I weighed more than Sheryl and I was not even a little bit pregnant!

Bob’s family and ours have been part of a group of friends that have had an annual camping weekend for more than 15 years. Sheryl has only come to our camping weekend once but she was so gracious and sweet that it was easy to want her back in our midst. She is an incredible cook and pretty funny besides.

Tonight when all our guests had gathered, I was able to present Sheryl with a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. She has been like a sister-in-law though I did not marry her brother. She has welcomed us into her home and and listened to our stories without looking bored. To Sheryl, I offer my sincerest thanks for welcoming us into the Mutchler fold. We feel so comfortable in her company and are very grateful for her friendship.

Day 78: Ashland Family Practice

23 Jun

In my life I have been blessed to have had health coverage whenever I have needed it. At times, my deductible has been a bit more than I would like, but I have always had access to quality medical care. That in itself is an incredible blessing and I know that I am fortunate.

Today my son was sorting through his things and came across a keychain with a likeness of a foot attached. I thought it was a religious reminder (as in the “footprints in the sand” poem). When I took the keychain my son said, “But you haven’t read the note. It says that this footprint is the actual size of a premature baby’s foot. That baby was born at Rogue Valley Medical Center and weighed only 1.5 pounds.” That’s a far cry from the 8+ pounds that each of my kids weighed at birth.

While I looked at that keychain, I started to cry and I knew that I had to write about my gratitude for the health of my children, my spouse and myself. My mother had a series of serious health challenges and died young; my Dad has had high blood pressure since he was in his twenties. All of my grandparents died before the age of 75. I can’t think of a reason why I should be so healthy. In a way, it feels that I have to do more with my life to make up for the family members that were not as lucky.

Today I wanted to recognize the wonderful people at Ashland Family Practice for their efforts in maintaining my family’s health. I first became a patient there when I was pregnant with my daughter. Dr. Jean Keevil was my doctor and she was really terrific. I always felt as if I was the most important patient on her schedule (and I bet everyone else did too).

I arrived at the Ashland Family Practice office today a little bit late to deliver my pie (actually it was an Almond Pear Cheesecake Tart). At that point, I hurried over to the home of my current Doc – Dorothy Miner. She was getting ready to attend a Britt performance and I thought my tart would make a perfect Britt Blanket Dessert. To Dorothy, Dee, the staff, (and Jean who has since retired), thank you for the care that you have given to my family over the years. We are so lucky to have doctors who are also friends.

(Sorry that there is no photo of my tart… for some reason my Samsung phone is taking almost 24 hours to send a photo).

Day 77: The Blue Giraffe and taking care of Me

22 Jun

Today when I began thinking about my “pie person” I thought of a woman who owns a local business. However, I soon found out that she was attending a conference and would not be back until early next week. That meant I had to resort to Plan B.

It just so happens that today I also received a Facebook message from The Blue Giraffe. It said that if I was able to answer three trivia questions, and was the first caller, I could receive a massage for 50% off. Well, I was the second caller and had the right answers and if I chose, I could receive a massage for 40% off. I thought about it for a moment and decided, “Well, why not?”

Taking care of ourselves is important. Way back when my children were little, my husband and I attended parenting classes. Jean, our facilitator, told us that we needed to remember to “fill our loving cup” for if it was empty, then we would have little “love” to give. It’s funny how we often tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the list, when really we should be closer to the top. For if we don’t feel good, then how can we be of much help to others? (Somehow our family made it through those tough years: here we are together in Prague – left to right: Emile, Karen, Alexandra and Coco)

Tonight I brought an Apple Walnut Raisin Pie to the Blue Giraffe as I arrived for my appointment. I wanted to thank them for helping me take care of myself. I then enjoyed a Swedish Massage for the first time. It was delicious… I felt so relaxed and refreshed afterwards! If you’d like to feel like this, please give them a call (541-488-3335). You will not be disappointed.

Day 76: Meredith

21 Jun

Guanajuato, Mexico

Meredith Reynolds has been my daughter Alex’s advisor/internship program coordinator for the past two years. Alexandra’s course of study took a very different turn when she opted to study in Denmark during her junior year at Southern Oregon University (SOU). When Alexandra decided to tackle an internship during her second year abroad (still in Denmark), Meredith was there to help her navigate the necessary paperwork to ensure that she was on track scholastically.

Copenhagen, Denmark
Meredith knows all about studying abroad. She has attained near-native fluency in Spanish language and Mexican Culture. She taught at the Universidad de Guanajuato for six years (from 1980-86). Guanajuato is the Sister City to Ashland, Oregon and there is a rich relationship between the two cities. In fact, my Alexandra “won” a contest when she was in 4th grade and was allowed to go (for free) to Guanajuato with a group of people from Ashland. Alexandra was 10 years old at the time but she was fearless and eager to go. I think that she was born knowing that she was a child of the world. I, on the other hand, did not get that memo.

It is wonderful that Meredith and Alexandra share a love of travel and cultures. Meredith has an amazing kinship with the people of Mexico, especially Guanajuato. Alexandra seems to have found that same kind of kinship in a small country 6,000 miles from the place in which she was born. I think that this is just a part of our ever changing world. And I count myself fortunate to have visited both Guanajuato and Denmark. What I have discovered is that with every new person that you meet you are given the opportunity to make a friend.

Today my friend Meredith was packing up her office. She is retiring from her position at SOU. I know that this is just a momentary pause for her for she has so much yet to give. I brought a quiche to Meredith today to thank her for all that she has done for my daughter and for all that she has done for Southern Oregon University. We are truly grateful for her passion and commitment and look forward to her next endeavor.