Archive | July, 2011

Day 116: Skip the Mailman

31 Jul

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.

Day 115: Shirley

30 Jul

Fresh Cherry Scones

Today is Saturday and most Saturdays I try and spend time at the Rotary Garden. I’m not much of a gardener, but I love to help with this project (we raise fresh produce for the Ashland Emergency Food Bank) and I also like getting to know my fellow Rotarians better. Often I bring a snack for the group and today I made these scones with the last of the fresh cherries that I had purchased. They were really tasty – and the farm crew seemed most appreciative.

When I got home from the garden I wanted to make a pie and realized that I was out of pie dough. And a number of people have told me that they cannot make pie dough so I thought I would share my method with you. Now, this recipe makes enough pie dough for 8 pies so you will have to break it down, but mostly I want you to see the process.

Pie Dough
5 cups Whole Wheat Flour
5 cups All Purpose Flour
24 ounces butter
4 tsp. salt
2 cups ice water

Now the first step is to get your ingredients together. Mix the flours and salt together. Cut the butter into small cubes.

Now, add the butter to the dry ingredients. There are many tools that you can use to mix the butter and flour, but today I used my hands. It works for me to do it this way, and I think it’s a good way to do it.

Once the flour and butter resembles this coarse crumb mixture, you are ready to add the ice water. Add the water all at once and mix only until combined. DO NOT OVERWORK THE DOUGH!

Gently mold the dough into a shape so that you can divide it into the portions you need. For my purposes I use a scale to weigh my dough portions and from this recipe create 8 portions, each weighing 10 ounces.

When I am ready to make a pie, I take out a piece of the dough and roll it out. If you look carefully, you can see that the dough is “marbled.” This is good – it means that the crust will be flaky.

Finally, I flute the edges of the pie crust once it is rolled out and placed in the pie tin. Now I am ready to prepare the fruit for the pie. Today, I cut up some Fuji Apples and tossed them with butter, sugar and a bit of flour and placed them in the crust. I topped that off with crumb topping and popped the pie into the oven while I decided where to take the pie.

Yesterday’s pie traveled far, and so it just seemed right that today’s pie should stay close to home, and so after the pie was done I walked less than a block to a neighbor’s house whom I had not yet met. Shirley met me at the door and welcomed me in to talk about the pie I was delivering. It wasn’t long before she told me about the neighborhood before I’d moved here, about the family that used to live in my house, about her life and family. We spent over an hour talking about all kinds of things.

When it was time to go, Shirley thanked me again for the pie and said, “I bet you’re making all kinds of friends doing this (giving away pies).” And I’d have to say, that at the very least, the people who have received a pie know that I care about them. And that’s a very good thing.

114: Wildlife Images

29 Jul

Today I took a drive to Grants Pass, Oregon with my son and two younger boys to visit Wildlife Images.  I’d heard about this place before but had never had the opportunity to experience it.  Wildlife Images is a non profit organization that provides care and treatment for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.  Each year they receive and care for over 1,000 animals.

We took a tour of the facility today.  We saw a badger, a raccoon, a grizzly bear, several brown bears, two bobcats, four bald eagles, one golden eagle, a peregrine falcon, and many other animals.  This tour gave us a chance to see these animals up close and personal.  It was really quite amazing.  I especially loved seeing the bald eagles at such close range and also enjoyed being so close to the bobcats – who just seemed like big house cats.

This morning I baked a Marionberry Crumb Crust Pie to bring to the staff at Wildlife Images.  I thought that the staff and volunteers might appreciate a tasty treat after a long day of caring for these wild animals.  For more information about Wildlife Images, please go to their website at

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Day 113: Recognizing our He-roes and She-roes

28 Jul

In my life, I’ve only experienced a fire at home once.  I was a teenager and had just placed a pizza in the oven when a neighbor said that they saw smoke coming from our house.  Someone jokingly asked how the pizza was – but since I had just put it in the oven, I knew that it wasn’t the pizza that was smoking.  We all exited the house and called 911.  In a few minutes firefighters arrived and put out a fire that had begun in our basement due to spontaneous combustion.  It happened so quickly that I was able to rescue my pizza and serve it to the firemen as a token of our gratitude.

A little over a week ago, a man in a neighboring town killed his family and set his house on fire.   The firefighters and first responders had no idea what to expect – and many tried valiantly to help resuscitate the family members – a young mother and her children.

While watching the news and reading the story, I thought about the firefighters and the EMT’s.   What a terrible scene they encountered.  I cannot imagine how they do what they do each day – and I wanted to recognize the brave men and women who serve us in this capacity.

Today I brought a Cherry Almond Tart to the Ashland Fire Department.  I am so very grateful for their service to our community.

Ashland Fire and Rescue Team take a moment to enjoy the tart

When I delivered the pie I noticed this phrase from the early years of firefighting posted on the wall, “Not to be guilty of cowardice.”    This isn’t the usual job requirement, now is it?   Imagine if all of our jobs asked that of us.

Day 112: Maureen

27 Jul

I first met Maureen because she had donated a certificate for a haircut to a fundraising event that was held in honor of the late Joanie McGowan. I placed a bid on and won that gift certificate and it was soon thereafter that I met Maureen.

I liked Maureen right away, especially because she listened to me before she cut my hair. That’s a wonderful trait in a hairdresser and I haven’t had my hair cut by anyone else since that first haircut!

Map of United States, Oregon on one coast, Staten Island on the other

One day a few years back, as Maureen was cutting my hair, I told her about an upcoming trip and that I was going to New York. She asked, “Do you know anyone there?” and I told her that I was born on Staten Island and that my sister still lived there. And that’s when I found out that Maureen was also from Staten Island! How strange is that??? Here we are in Ashland, OR, roughly 3,000 miles from Staten Island and somehow we are drawn together, in some way, because we were both friends of Joanie.

Maybe this was just a coincidence. Maybe not. What matters is that I feel lucky to have found someone who helps me look my best. That’s a pretty amazing gift.

Tonight I baked a Spinach, Mushroom, Sundried Tomato and Jarlsberg quiche for Maureen. I know that she doesn’t eat many sweets and I thought that she might like a break from cooking after standing all day long fixing hair.

Day 111: Wedding Bells

26 Jul

This morning I awoke early – around 4:30 AM. There was still some cleaning up to do from the wedding this past weekend and there was a bit of catching up to do in general.

It wasn’t until early afternoon that I began to think about the pie I was to make. However, it didn’t take long until I saw the strawberries in the fridge and picked some fresh rhubarb and soon afterwards a pie was in the oven.

Once the pie was baked I rushed off to meet a woman named Donna who wanted to talk about her upcoming wedding plans. We discussed a number of ideas and I was asked if I had a website. I said no, but I am writing a blog. And then I proceeded to explain this pie a day project. When I finished, I said, “And I’ve already made today’s pie but I am not sure where it is going.”

That’s when Donna said that she had guests coming for dinner and didn’t yet have a dessert for them. How perfect! I quickly drove back home to get her the pie because somehow it just seemed destined for her – and I am learning not to question that.

Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakably tender hand, placed beside another thread and held and carried by a hundred others.
Rainer Maria Rilke quotes

Day 110: A Brand New Baby and Polenta Pie

25 Jul

As you may recall, I catered a wedding this weekend. And as I have not been on top of my game (which I guess is because I am recovering from my accident), I prepared more food than I should have. I was trying to decide who to give food to when my friend Sue called and told me about a young couple who have just had their first baby.  It seems that the mother had a difficult time during childbirth and is now recuperating.   Many of their friends have mobilized to prepare meals for them so as to make this trying time a little bit easier.

When I asked Sue if she wanted some of the food that I had left, she told me, “I would love to take some of the food but only if it would be okay to share it with this young couple.”  Why wouldn’t I want Sue to share this food? It seemed like a perfect solution.

Once I determined that this couple would eat the sausages I’d cooked, I put together a “Polenta Pie” for them.  I started with a layer of polenta, added a layer of sausage and peppers, and topped it off with roasted tomatoes, marinated mozzarella, grated asiago,  and fresh spinach.  It was one of the prettiest pies I think I have made.

I send my very best wishes to the new parents and their brand new baby and hope that the new Mom recovers quickly.

Day 109: A Pizza Pie!

24 Jul

After a big catering event, there are still many things to do.  Today, I spent a lot of time putting things back as they were before the event.  For example, today  my catering equipment had to be washed and organized.   This is an important part of catering, but it is not really fun, nor is it easy.   It’s  just a matter of taking the  time to complete the necessary steps.

While I was in the Zen of washing dishes, I remembered  something from my childhood – namely – how we used to refer to pizza as a “Pizza Pie.”  When I was young, having pizza for diner was very rare and I don’t remember a single time that we had pizza delivered.

Today, I chose to make a pie that I haven’t made for this “pie project” before.  I brought a vegetarian Pizza Pie (roasted peppers, spinach, marinated mozzarella)  to help  bring some cheer to the staff that works at a facility that assists people in recovering from injury or illness.  I am grateful for their compassion and sensitivity.

When I arrived on site to deliver the pie,  I followed the first voice I heard and soon afterward I met the nurse on duty, I explained my blog.  I told her that I wanted her to share the pizza with other members of the staff as a way of recognizing them for their hard work in maintaining a safe and comfortable place in which to recover from life’s challenges.

Day 108: Being a friend

23 Jul

It was a hectic, crazy day for me.  There was still a lot of prep work to do for the wedding that I was catering and yet I definitely wanted to be sure to make a pie.  This is such an important part of the day for me – sort of like a meditation.  It begins with taking the pie dough from the fridge and then considering the possibilities in my pantry and the myriad of pie recipients in the world.

Today, my mind was centered on a friend who was feeling sad because it was the anniversary of her father’s passing.  Her family has had a lot to deal with in this past year and that has not made it any easier.  Losing someone dear to us is difficult enough without the complications of family issues.  Today I made her a quiche with chicken sausages, swiss cheese,  and red bell peppers.  I wanted to let her know that I am here for her and that she does not have to be alone with her sadness.

This morning I called my friend and asked her if she could stop by for a moment.  I had too much yet to do to make a special delivery and so I told her I needed her help.  When she asked why, I explained my predicament – and told her about the quiche that I had made for her.  Her response, “You didn’t have to do that!” Yes, I know, but that’s what makes this project so great – I don’t have to do it at all.  I want to – and that makes all the difference.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
Albert Einstein

Day 107: Lisa

22 Jul

Good friends are like stars; you don’t always see them but you know they’re always there!

This has been a busy week for me.  Months ago I agreed to cater a wedding for a friend’s daughter and the wedding is tomorrow.  The biggest problem is that I am walking around with a broken/mending rib and am not myself.  It’s sort of strange; at times I feel so disoriented.  I know what I need to do but it’s hard right now for me to function.  My body can’t do what it used to do with ease.   The good news?  I have wonderful friends who have willingly come to my aid: Debbie talked party logistics with me, Leslie shopped for me, Barbie helped me bake cupcakes and SueZ lent me equipment.  I am so lucky to be surrounded by these wonderful, amazing friends.

A few days ago,  I called my friend Lisa to ask if I could borrow a few catering items.  She asked how I was and I shared the news about my recent accident. Without a moment’s hesitation she asked how she could help.  She said, “Just tell me what you need me to do and I will be there.”  I tried to tell her that she did not need to do anything and she said, “You have helped me when I needed help – this time, I will help you.”

And so today, as I was baking a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, I thought of Lisa.  She has helped me in more ways than I can count and I want her to know that I really appreciate her.   Thank you Lisa – I am forever grateful to you for your support and trust.  It means more than you know.

The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson