Archive | July, 2011

Day 106: Happy Birthday Coco!

21 Jul

It was eighteen years ago today that I met Coco.  I was at the Portland Adventist Hospital and the doctor exclaimed, “It’s a boy!”  My first question was, “Are you sure?”  I did not think I was going to have a boy because my first and second pregnancies seemed very much the same.  For that reason, I had not selected a boys name for my baby.  Instead, I had chosen the name “Eleanor Rose” in honor of both of his grandmothers.  And so when the doctor told me the news I was a bit surprised.

It took us five days to name our boy child.   I was of the mind that we would name him “Joseph” in honor of his paternal grandfather but when it came to deciding my husband was not comfortable calling his son by his father’s name.  And so we talked for several days – and considered many possibilities.  And we chose the name Francesco for our new baby.  We had lived in San Francisco together and that was a special time and I had also known a baby named Francisco when I was younger.

However, our last name is of Italian origin and while we liked the name “Francisco” a lot, we felt that it did not match well with our last name.  We discovered that Francesco was the Italian version of Francisco and we were both happy with that and so our son was named “Francesco Joseph.”   It was only a year or so later that the name that we had so carefully chosen was reduced to a much shorter nickname, “Coco”.

This happened because once or twice a week I babysat for my friend’s son, Jonathan, who was a year older than my son.  The boys got along very well and I loved the time I spent with Jon.  And then came the week when I arrived and Jonathan met me at the door and said “Coco’s here.”  Coco?  What was that about? Well, it meant that Jon, at two, could not say “Francesco” and condensed the name to Coco.  And Francesco has been Coco ever since then.

Today our “baby” boy has turned eighteen and it is amazing to see how this eight pound baby has turned out.  His Dad and I are both surprised at how fast the time has gone by.   How does that happen?  I don’t know.  I only know that I am honored and grateful for the time that I have spent with this young man and hope that he is able to make all of his dreams come true.

Tonight we shared a gluten-free ice cream pie with our neighbors (who have known Coco since he was two).   We are truly blessed to be surrounded by caring friends who share in the moments of our lives.

Happy Birthday Coco – we love you!

Day 105: Thelma, Susan and grace

20 Jul

My neighbor Bernie has a cherry tree in his yard that is glorious.  We have enjoyed the fruit of that tree for some time now.  A few years ago Bernie’s sister (who lives in London) sent me a recipe for an “Almond Cherry Pie.”  It was wonderful – and so I decided to make it today because I had fresh cherries in the fridge.   I’d like to share with you the recipe as Thelma wrote it.

“Hello from Bernards sister in the UK.

Ingredients: Short crust pastry. Stoned cherries.

6 oz Butter

6 oz Sugar

3 eggs

4 oz self raising flour

2 oz ground almonds Apetit

Few drops of almond essence.

Method: Line a 9 inch flan dish with pastry.  Cover base with cherries.  Beat together butter and sugar until well blended.  Add eggs one at a time alternately with 3 tablespoons of the flour.  fold in the rest of the flour together with the ground almonds and essence.  Spoon this mixture over the cherries and bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 35-40 minutes or until well browned.  Serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream or both!  Bon Appetit and good luck.

Regards, Thelma.

I just love how Thelma marches in with the recipe –  “Hello – from Bernards sister” and then begins to list the ingredients.  No need for small talk – heck we may never even meet!   And I love the use of the word “essence” instead of extract.  It seems much more dignified. But most of all,  I am so grateful for this recipe because this pie is delicious!!!

As I was baking the pie a friend’s name came into my head and I remembered that the last time I’d seen Susan, it was a few days after she’d lost her Dad.  I did not get to speak with her on that occasion but certainly could sense the sadness she felt – and I was helpless to fix.  And then  I thought, maybe Susan would enjoy a pie like this.

When I arrived at her house, Susan seemed surprised to see me.   She had just heard about my bicycle accident today and clearly did not expect to see me at her doorstep with a pie. Since the last time I’d seen her, she’s had a lot to deal with – mostly health issues regarding her family members.

And while I can’t help here with those things – I’m very glad that I was able to surprise Susan with a pie – and I hope that she is able to navigate her family’s changing circumstances with the gentle grace that she brings to all things.

Day 104: Flitch Day and the Hospice Unique Boutique

19 Jul

July 19th is Flitch Day. What is a Flitch? Well, a flitch is measurement of bacon, equaling half a pig. (Flitch = side)   In the United States: A side of unsliced bacon was once known as a flitch – it is now known as a slab.

What is this Holiday for?  This holiday began as an old English custom.  Every year on this day, since about 1104, any married couple who could prove that they had been faithful and loving to one another for one year was awarded half a pig, known as a flitch of bacon. However, very few couples would actually “bring home the bacon!”

What does this information have to do with today’s pie? Absolutely nothing. I just liked this useless bit of trivia that was found on the directory for weird and wacky holidays. And since today I made pie number 104 and this custom has been in place since “about1104, I felt there was enough of a coincidence to include it.

The “pie” I made today was in the form of a cheesecake. It was baked in a pie tin with a graham cracker crust as is common, but then I took fresh dark cherries and made a topping for the pie. Once it was assembled, I placed it in the fridge to chill for a while until I knew where to deliver it.

Cherry Cheesecake Pie

My first thought was that I should come up with a “married couple” to honor (as the “flitch” custom dictates) but somehow I began thinking of a shop called the Hospice Unique Boutique. If you haven’t visited this place yet, you should stop by soon. They sell gently used goods (clothing, dishes, kitchenwares, books, linens, etc) and their mission is “to raise funds to support the work of all hospices and end of life programs in Jackson and Josephine counties.”   What a wonderful idea!

I didn’t try to figure out why I should go to the boutique; I just drove there. I walked up to the counter with my pie and the young lady took a look at the pie and said, “That’s not something we see here everyday.” Then I told her about my mission and asked her to share it with the volunteers from the store. That’s when a lady sitting nearby told me that today is the birthday of a woman named Sarah, and Sarah was the person who had written the initial grant to help get this boutique started.   Is that another coincidence or just perfect timing?

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
— Albert Einstein

Day 103: Dave

18 Jul

We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.
– Nelson Mandela

This year on 18 July – Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday – the UN is joining a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to devote 67 minutes of our time to helping others, as a way to mark Nelson Mandela International Day.

Sixty Seven Minutes! That’s all that this Nobel Peace prize winner has asked of us to help change the world. What could we do in such a short time that would be productive?

We could read to a child. We could serve soup at a shelter. We could donate blood. We could take our therapy dog to visit those who are ill. We could donate our usable goods to any number of charities. We could take the time to get to know our neighbors.

Today I began to make an Apple Pie and almost immediately I thought of Dave. I knew that he’d had a stroke but I had not yet visited him. I wondered if Dave would even be able to eat the pie that I’d made him. But since I was pretty sure that Dave was today’s pie recipient, I went to the place where he is currently staying and walked to his room.

When he saw me he had a questioning look on his face. I introduced myself and repeated something he’d once told me “Your wife is in love with my husband.” Well, Dave took one look at the pie and said, “And I think that I’m in love with you!” Warm Apple pies have that kind of effect on people.

It was wonderful to visit with Dave and his wife this afternoon. I don’t know if this is what Nelson Mandela had in mind, but I do know that I felt better after my visit. It took such a small effort and yet the rewards were tremendous.

If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path. Buddhist saying.

Day 102: Chocolate Cream Birthday Pie

17 Jul

Today as I was driving through town I thought of a friend who I had not seen in a while and wondered how he was. As I approached the street where I turn to go home I saw an amazing sign announcing a yard sale. If you know me at all, you know how much I love a good yard sale and decided, “If the sign is that nice, this sale must be amazing!”

In just a few minutes I was at the sale – which turned out to be at the house of the friend I’d been thinking about! I got out and looked around and we talked a bit and then he told me that his daughter just had had a birthday four days ago. “But I always make her birthday cake!” I thought to myself, and then I asked, “How about if I make her a birthday pie?” And that is how I came to make a Chocolate Cream Pie for Jacque’s birthday (a few days after the fact).

I took about two dozen of these “Newman’s Own” chocolate sandwich cookies and crushed them in my cuisinart and added three tablespoons of melted butter to the mix, pressed it all into a pie pan and baked it at 350 for 10 minutes. While the crust was baking, I made the chocolate pie filling. The most important ingredient? Good quality chocolate!

Lastly, I poured the cooled pudding into the crust and topped it off with sweetened whipped cream and more shaved chocolate. Totally decadent and fit for a queen (or a young lady who has just turned 13). Later I received a text with these words, “Pie has been devoured in ecstasy with moans of delight!” What a great message! I wish you a very Happy Birthday Jacque!

Day 101: Man’s Best Friend

16 Jul

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
Groucho Marx

Grover, me and Coco circa 2002

Our family has only had one dog, Grover. As many of you already know, we lost Grover last year. He had been with us for eleven years – and we got him from the Jackson County Animal Shelter. I always thought that we would get a puppy – maybe a black lab or something like that. But instead we took in Grover – a 3-year-old dog that had no intention of fetching anything – ever.

“You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, `My God, you’re RIGHT! I NEVER would’ve thought of that!'”
Dave Barry

Depending on who you are, and where you live, dogs can be “pets” or dogs can be “family.” Our dog was definitely a part of our family. He seemed to be so grateful that we had chosen to take him home. The devotion he displayed towards me was unmatched – this dog knew that I had saved him from certain death.

The more I know about people, the better I like my dog.”
Mark Twain

Today, my friend Tom and his wife Kim were steeling themselves to say goodbye to their dog. He’d had a stroke earlier this week and his family knew that his time with them was over.

This morning I brought a warm Apple pie to Tom and Kim because I knew that they were sad that they were losing their dog Cole… and I know too well that losing a loved one is a very hard thing to do.

“I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive.”
Gilda Radner

Day 100: New beginnings

15 Jul


If you look up the phrase “new beginnings” in the dictionary you may find these words: the point in time or space when something starts. That’s a pretty broad definition. Today I was able to witness a “new beginning” and felt privileged to share in that moment.

The new beginning was the birth of a friend’s son. A few weeks ago I called to ask my friend when the baby was due and was told July 15. I asked if I could bring a quiche when the baby arrived so that it might make the first days a bit easier and was told that that would be okay. Imagine my surprise when I called today to check in and found out that the baby was a week old! I quickly put a quiche in the oven and scheduled a visit.

I adore babies – and was delighted to meet baby Kian today. He weighs just about 6 pounds and while he was not really awake for my visit, I enjoyed watching his facial expressions change from moment to moment. I especially loved when he was nearly asleep, and would suddenly open one eye to peek at us. His mom said it first: he’s a total charmer.

I brought a Spinach, Onion and Pepper Quiche to Kian’s proud parents. I am so very happy that their son has arrived and that he is beautiful and healthy. I wish for the family an abundance of love and all things good.

A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for.

Day 99: Uncle Charlie

14 Jul

This morning I was pretty busy and did not get around to making a pie until about 2 PM. As I was cutting the fruit and rolling the crust I wondered, once again, who’s pie is this? After I placed the pie in the oven, I sat down to check my email and found a message from a friend asking “Do you take requests?” She mentioned that her Uncle Charlie was housebound and she thought that he would really appreciate a pie – and she also told me where he lived. I now knew the pie’s destination. Don’t you just love how these pie “questions” get answered?

Late this afternoon, I arrived at the house where Charlie is now living. I introduced myself to his caregiver and told her that I had made Charlie a Strawberry Raspberry Rhubarb Pie. She thanked me and then brought me in to see Charlie. After a brief introduction, Charlie and I settled in for a visit.

Charlie told me so many great stories in the short time I was there. For example, he went into the Army in 1942 and served in World War II. He spent time in northern Africa, Italy and Switzerland. One day, when he was in Italy, his men were in an olive grove early in the morning. Charlie heard a plane overhead and instinctively dove for cover. He said, “That day fifteen men showed up for duty. The next day, only seven were left.” He told me that he’d been in five combat areas and all he could attribute his survival to was “luck.”

Charlie also told me about how he went into business with a man “on a handshake.” He commented on how “that’s not how they do things nowadays.” He also mentioned that he’d told someone that he was interested in buying her property “when she was ready to sell.” Twenty five years later, when she was ready to sell, others showed interest in buying the property. All of those “others” were told “It’s already been sold.” That was back at a time when people gave their word and it really meant something.

I am very glad that I was able to visit with Charlie and it was great fun to hear his stories. I hope that I get the chance to visit with him again soon. It’s nice to visit the past when you have someone to show you around who has been there.

Simple, genuine goodness is the best capital to found the business of this life upon. It lasts when fame and money fail, and is the only riches we can take out of this world with us.
— Louisa May Alcott (Little Men)

Day 98: Kelly

13 Jul

The other day as I was driving through town, I saw Kelly and her husband, Jeff, at a local restaurant and thought, I need to bring a pie to Kelly! Here are a few things that I know about Kelly: she was a wonderful teacher, she’s an amazing knitter, she is a knowledgeable and talented gardener, and she has a tremendous heart.

I’ve known Kelly for a long time and first met her at the First Presbyterian church when we both attended the “contemporary” service. One of the things I remember most, is that near the end of the service, the congregation would gather into a circle and hold hands.

At that time we shared our joys and concerns. Many times as I listened to the “concerns” of the congregation I would be overwhelmed with emotion by the troubles facing the various church members. It wouldn’t be long before tears were streaming down my face (remember: we were holding hands). I was usually embarrassed by my tears until I looked across the circle and saw that Kelly was also crying. She said that she and I could be the groups “designated criers” which sounded perfect to me.

Apple Almond Pie

Today when I arrived at Kelly’s house to deliver the pie she was not at home. Oh no, a dilemma: do I leave the pie on the porch and hope that she returns soon? But what if it is eaten by a neighborhood dog? Well, I needn’t have worried. Just a minute later, Kelly and Jeff arrived home. We chatted for a bit and I told them about my pie project. Then I presented Kelly with an apple pie. And, just for a moment, we both teared up.

Day 97: We met accidentally

12 Jul

Last week I shared what happened when I decided to ride my bicycle to church. My day did not turn out as planned: instead I was hit by a car, spent time in the emergency room, and found out that I had a broken rib. A few days later at the doctors office, one of the doctor’s staff, Tiffany, asked me about the age of the driver of the car. I told her my guess and she said that the driver’s age would be on the crash report. And as it turned out, the driver’s birthday was today.

When I relayed this information to my friends and family, several immediately suggested that I bake a pie for Tom, the man who had hit me. Several others thought that this was going a bit too far with my pie project. Well, this morning I resolved to bake an an apple pie and present it to Tom.

I was a bit nervous about my decision and so I asked my son to come along with me. When we approached Tom’s door, he called out, “knock knock” because he had heard our footsteps. When Tom came to the door, he greeted us. I said “I don’t know if you remember me.” He said “Anyone carrying a pie can’t be all bad.” And then I told him how we had met. Immediately he apologized and I told him quickly that I had a broken rib but then I said, “and from the police report I found out that today is your birthday and so I made you a pie. Happy Birthday.” It took a moment before he responded, ” I am genuinely touched by your gesture. This means a lot to me.”

We spent a few minutes talking about baking, about life and children. He said that since I had baked something for him, he wanted to give us some of the Scottish Shortbread he had baked (which was delicious). Then he told us about a trip he was planning to take along the Alaskan Marine Highway. Tom told us how he hoped that his brother would accompany him on this voyage. It sounded like it would be a wonderful vacation.

I am very glad that I decided to bring Tom a pie. It was a sincere act of reconciliation; of forgiveness. I wish him an amazing adventure in Alaska – and hope that we meet again sometime – but hopefully not by accident.

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heal that has crushed it.
–Mark Twain