Archive | September, 2011

Day 177: Jane’s Pie and Donna’s Inspiration

30 Sep

My neighbor’s sister Jane visits from Canada a few times each year. They are both gardeners and often spend a lot of time on some kind of garden project. In fact, recently they decided to spend a day creating a clear path between our two homes – and that meant digging up plants and moving heavy paving stones. By days end, they had created a lovely pathway – for which I am very grateful.

We did not have too much time to visit with Jane this time around and she is preparing to leave tomorrow to head home and so I decided that today’s pie would be for Jane – and her family in Canada. This makes it the second international pie! Jane promised me that she would place it in the back of her vehicle so that she would not be tempted to eat it before she gets home. This is a photo of the pie that will accompany her to British Colombia.

Tonight while shopping for apples for this pie I ran into my friend Donna. We chatted about what was going on in our lives and then she said, “You inspired me to do something.” Now of course I thought that she had decided to make a pie but that was not what she meant. Seems she was out buying local corn and decided to buy a few extra ears for her friend. However, when she got to her friend’s house, she noticed her car was not there and was turning to leave when she noticed the house where another friend used to live. That friend had long since moved away, but today there was a car in the driveway and so Donna pulled up to the house and went to the door and knocked. When the person answered she introduced herself and told the folks where she lived and then asked if they liked corn. Well, it turns out they did like corn and so Donna gave them the extra ears that she had bought.

Donna said that she had been inspired to reach out to a new neighbor and to welcome them because of my pie project. I am honored that she thinks that I did something… but all I really did was to suggest what we could do. We don’t have to move mountains to make a difference … we just need to be present with each other. And Donna took that idea and made a few new friends with a couple of ears of corn. It’s as simple, and as amazing, as that.

Day 176: Brian and Emily

29 Sep

As some of you already know, I am a contest junkie. For many years I have tried to be the right caller at the right time to get that certain prize. And over the years I have scored a few absolutely wonderful prizes. Luck has something to do with it… but it takes something more. You’ve heard the joke where the woman (or man) asks week after week, “God, please help me win the lottery.” Finally a deep voice from heaven booms, “Meet me halfway… buy a ticket!” Well, I try to do my part and buy the ticket (or in this case, dial the number).

One of my favorite wins came from a rock station in the area. The way it worked was if you were the right caller, you “qualified” to win tickets and back stage passes to see Jackson Browne. Well, somehow I qualified for the contest. Friday morning came and they getting ready to announce the winner. At that time I was on my Nordictrack with headphones on. The DJ said he had the winner’s name and he announced it slowly…. Karen (and I thought, no way it’s me) and then he couldn’t say the last name (Amarotico) and I began screaming. My husband could not figure out why I was screaming (remember I had on head phones) and he ran to the window to see what might have caused my panic. When I finally calmed down and told him what I had won, he calmly asked, so “who are you taking?”

Later that day I called my friend Julie and asked if she would meet me in Eugene to see Jackson Browne… and of course she said yes. It was one of the best wins ever. We saw an awesome concert and then were invited backstage to meet Jackson Browne afterwards. He had been interviewed by the Oregonian earlier in the week and he said something that bothered me; something like “people don’t get involved.” I brought the article to the “meet and greet” and told him that by saying that he had “dissed” all the people that did get involved. I suggested that he say instead “I wish more people would get involved (in good causes)” because it did not negate those who already are involved.

Then I turned around and saw a line of folks waiting to speak with Mr. Browne and I immediately apologized for making them wait and they seemed to say “it’s okay” because this conversation seemed real – not just another “Please Mr. Browne autograph this guitar for our raffle.” Truly a wonderful moment.

Today I brought an Apple Almond Pie to Brian and Emily, to thank them for my most recent win. These two have become more than on-air personalities – they are much more like friends.

Day 175: Happy Birthday Jodi

28 Sep

Jodi and I met about thirty years ago when I was in the tavern that her family owned. It was a lovely little place with great music, a friendly staff, and good food. One of my personal favorites was something called the “bar pie.” It was just a pizza but it was small enough to serve at the bar or at a table for two. My friends and I loved that place.

What was it about this tavern that made it so special? The best answer that I can come up with is that my friends and I felt at home there. We could drink wine, eat pizza, and feed the juke box and talk all night long. It was really a great place.

After Jodi and I became friends I actually worked at the tavern for a short time. It was an act of generosity on the part of her Dad because I needed experience for school but I learned then that I was definitely not cut out to be a line cook.

It’s amazing to me that Jodi and I have remained friends all these years because we haven’t lived in the same city since that time. We wrote countless letters in the days before Al Gore created the internet and since that time we have sent a lot of emails. And every time I go home for a visit, I try to surprise Jodi at her restaurant – and she always makes me feel so welcome.

Today is Jodi’s birthday and I am sorry to say that I did not send her a pie. Instead I thought that I would send her a virtual pie, and that pie would have to be like Jodi – very sweet. That is why this morning I decided to bake a pecan pie in Jodi’s honor because she is one of the sweetest people that I have ever met and I am so glad that we are friends. I hope that she will be happy to know that “her” Pecan Pie was given to someone who deserved a bit of sweetness in her day.

Day 174: Theresa

27 Sep

As I was preparing for today’s pie, I first needed to make a batch of pie dough. My plan was to make a blackberry peach pie but the peaches were not ripe and so I had to rethink my plan. That is when I decided to make a triple berry pie and this is what the prep looked like:

As I was preparing the berries for the pie I remembered that I had a request to bring a pie to a lady who loved berries but was gluten-free. That meant that I did not need a crust at all for this pie. I found a glass pie dish and prepared the berries for a cobbler and made a crumb topping with gluten free oats, sugar and butter. The combination of all these ingredients as they baked created an incredible aroma in the kitchen.

When the cobbler was baked I called the pie recipient. Since she was not at home, I left a message explaining that I had something to deliver to her and I hoped that she would call me back soon. It was less than an hour later when my call was returned. The voice on the other end of the line said “I think you must have the wrong person.” It took a moment to assure her that I had the right person after all.

A short time later I delivered the three berry cobbler to Theresa, a beautiful lady who lives near Southern Oregon University. We talked about where we each had lived and I was surprised to learn that we were both born in New York – she on Manhattan, me on Staten Island. We both had lived in the bay area – she in Walnut Creek, me in San Francisco.

About ten years ago, Theresa told me that spent two years in a remote village in Alaska. The total population of that village was 165. She had to put up with hardships that I can’t begin to imagine yet she felt that she was called to be there and so she adapted. One skill that she learned during that time was beading. She insisted on giving me one of the beaded pen sheaths that she learned to make during those long cold winter nights.

This afternoon I shared an hour with a lady I’d never met before and learned so much about her life in that time. I imagine that there are thousands of wonderful stories like this waiting to be told. Maybe all that we need to do to hear them is take the time to listen… and perhaps bake a pie :-).

Day 173: A Remarkable Woman

26 Sep

Today is purportedly the birthday of Johnny Appleseed. And for that reason I felt it was important to make today’s pie with apples. To the apples that I harvested from the tree in my yard I added craisins and walnuts and a crumb crust topping. Here is what it looked like:

As I was preparing this pie I let my mind wander and think about who was to receive it. The person who came to mind was a lady I haven’t seen in a while but who has been on my mind nonetheless. It feels like I have known this woman for a long time but I realized that I didn’t really know a lot about her. My instincts told me that she was a tender soul and that she cared a lot about people.

Over the last few years I had noticed that this woman was helping a family I knew that had experienced some difficulties. She offered them her time and her love to help them through a very challenging period. What an amazing gift.

This spring this remarkable woman lost her son. Loss is hard – and there are no easy answers. Losing a child is something we never want to experience – and I think most parents would choose to give up their own lives to save their child. But life does not work that way. We are not in control.

I shared with her the words I’d heard from a pastor many years ago after a young girl had died: He said that when Jesus learned that his friend had died, Jesus wept. To me there is comfort in knowing that even Jesus could be moved to tears at the loss of a friend.

We can’t rewrite events, even though we might want to. We may feel sadness for our friend’s loss all the while knowing that we are powerless to “fix” things. But we can still be present; we can offer our love and support.

Today I brought my apple pie to this lovely lady and her husband. As we sat and visited for more than an hour, we talked about a great many things. At one point she shared that while you never really get over losing someone, you may one day find that you accept the mystery and the majesty of life. This lady is truly a remarkable woman and I am honored to know her.

Day 172: The Lithia Magic Wand Maker

25 Sep

Earlier this week I received an email from a woman in Fredericksburg Texas. Somehow she had found out about my pie project and she wanted to know if she could pay me to bring a pie to a friend of hers who lives in my town. When I wrote her back, I explained that money was not the reason I was making pies, and then I asked her to tell me why she thought her friend deserved a pie.

It took several days for her to get back to me because she was traveling and she could not get on the internet. When she finally saw my message, she wrote back immediately and gave many reasons why her friend deserved a pie. I was typing my reply to her email when my phone rang. As you might have guessed, it was the lady from Texas. She was thrilled that I would bring her friend a pie and could not thank me enough. My only request was that she call her friend to make sure that he would be home when I stopped by.

This afternoon I baked a Blueberry Crumb Crust Pie for a man that I had never met. When I delivered the pie I learned he was known as the “Lithia Magic Wand Maker.” He knew that the lady in Texas had something to do with him getting a pie and he was truly pleased to see me.

This man had a pie story to tell me. Seems that this same lady sent him a pie via FedEx a number of years ago just as he was fixing to leave town. He took the box and put it in the car and drove on down the road. He planned to meet up with a friend, but that friend was too sick to see him, and so he kept on driving. Finally, four days later, he and a few friends were ready to eat the pie. He opened the FedEx box. Inside that was the box from the bakery. As he opened that box he saw his pie – with a rainbow of mold on it.

As luck would have it, he was at a park where a festival of nature was being held. At this festival there was an art contest and anything from nature could be entered into the contest – and so this man decided to enter the moldy pie – and it won a prize! And then he thinks that his pie was probably eaten by some raccoons. But what a journey it had taken!

The Lithia Magic Wand Maker told me that he planned on sharing his Blueberry Pie with a friend on Tuesday. That would make three people who were affected by one pie: the lady in Texas, this man and his friend. Imagine the implications if we could all do one small thing to brighten someone’s day.

As we parted, this man told me how he and one of his dearest friends would say goodbye (in letters, emails, etc). And those are the words I will leave you all with tonight: Pi for now.

Day 171: Leslie

24 Sep

This morning I had a luncheon to prepare for but luckily I remembered to include in my preparations, an almond peach tart. This dessert is a variation of a recipe that was sent to me by my neighbor’s sister in the United Kingdom. In this recipe, you take sweet dough and line a pastry pan. Then you prepare the fruit and place it in the crust. After that you pour an almondy batter over the top of it. It smells heavenly when it bakes and I can only hope that it tastes just as good.

This evening I also was preparing food. However, this time the food was for a group of people that were fundraising for a cause that was close to their hearts. A friend of ours, Leslie Kendall, was also donating to this organization, but instead of preparing food to be served, she was preparing to sing her heart out for the attendees.

Leslie is also a voice coach. A few years ago she helped my daughter prepare for an audition. The transformation in my daughter’s persona was unmistakable. The song that she sang for her audition was a Cole Porter tune called “Always true to you in my fashion.” It was such a treat to see my daughter command the stage when she sang… and she got that confidence, in part, from Leslie.

Tonight I brought Leslie an Almond Peach Tart. It is a sweet (and tangible) way to thank her for sharing her amazing gift with all of us.

Day 170: Friends

23 Sep

As you know, my daughter Alexandra came home a few days ago. Since then, we have had a wonderful time catching up and just enjoying her presence. It is in some ways as if she was never gone, but of course she was, and I am so happy to have her here again.

In the past few days, Alex has had the chance to connect with a few friends that she hasn’t seen in several years. One of those friends is Kerry, a woman that my daughter used to work with at a retail shop and also at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They maintained a bond across the many miles that separated them – and that is a testament to their friendship.

In comparison, there are a number of people who were unable to keep in touch and that says a lot as well. As a parent, I am so grateful to those friends who have made the effort to stay connected because I know how much it meant to Alex.

Perhaps it’s the Mama Bear in me, but I still find myself wanting to hug the people that are kind to my children and wanting to shield them from the rest of the world. Does that protectiveness ever go away I wonder?

This afternoon I made Black and Blue Berry Lattice topped pie for Kerry. It is a delicious (if I do say so!) way of saying thank you for being such a good friend.

Day 169: Paula

22 Sep

A few days ago I saw Paula leaving to go to church to preach. These words do not do justice to the image that Paula exuded. She looked ever so much like a lady going to a party… and I love that she had on high heels and a flowing dress and she was on her way to preach!

I’ve known Paula for a many years. Our kids are close in age and we met through our daycare provider. It was a simple connection but a good one. From that chance encounter, Paula asked me to attend the church that she was connected to. I was moved to visit that church and am still connected to it today.

This church has undergone many changes over the last ten years. And while I would not consider myself religious, I really like connecting with the people from this congregation. What I have done as a form of service is to help with coffee hour. I love that the people in church stop and chat for a moment after the service if we offer them a cookie or some other treat. It gives us a chance to strengthen the bonds that we have – and to me that is so important.

A while ago, Paula took some words of scripture and then added a melody to create a song that we sang at the end of each of our informal services. One of the lines from that song goes as follows: So be swift to love, make haste to be kind, and gladden the hearts of those who travel the way.”

This is such a wonderful admonition. We are asked only to love one another and be kind… what a simple request. And what amazing things could happen if this is what we chose to do.

Today I prepared a bacon and spinach quiche and then brought it to Paula. I have long considered her a model of peace, love and understanding, and I am honored to call her a friend.

Day 168: Emile’s Birthday Surprise

21 Sep

Yesterday I mentioned that my daughter was coming home from Copenhagen… but what I did not mention was that we kept the date of her actual arrival a secret from her Dad, Emile. Alexandra wanted to be home for his birthday (which is today) but she had told him that she was going to come home this Friday evening. Yesterday, Emile had planned to attend a friend’s party and I had to say I was not able to accompany him because I also had a meeting. What I did not say was that I would be “meeting” (read picking up) Alexandra at the airport.

It was wonderful to see Alex walk through the door of the terminal! Immediately she introduced me to the furry St. Charles Spaniel that accompanied her. Alexandra has been caring for him for a while and there was no one else to assume that role, and so she brought him (Sofus) home.

After a brief hug Alex went to the baggage carousel, while I walked Sofus. Once she had her bag, we drove to the party that her Dad was attending. She and I walked up to the door of the inn and then I asked her to wait while I looked around. The party was wrapping up when I found her Dad. He asked if I wanted a glass of wine and I asked if I could speak to him alone for a minute. At that point I took him to the front door at which point Alexandra stepped into view. The look on his face was priceless. He couldn’t believe that she was really there… and I was thrilled that we had truly succeeded in surprising him!

This afternoon I baked a Blackberry Peach Cobbler for Emile’s birthday. It was the healthiest “pie” that I could create – no crust, lots of fruit and oats in the topping. Please raise a glass to Emile tonight – and join us in wishing him a very happy birthday.