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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

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Day 283: A Chocolate Chess Pie for JoAnn

15 Jan

About a week ago I mentioned that I was looking for new pies to make and had found a recipe for Chess Pie.  It’s a custard-like pie that has one unusual ingredient: cornmeal.  There are many stories about where this name might have come from that you can read here.

When I mentioned Chess Pie on my blog, I asked if anyone could vouch for it.  A man named David Lowe wrote back and endorsed the idea and then sent me a recipe for a Chocolate Chess Pie.  Here is that recipe:

Fancy Chocolate Chess Pie (from Ken Hadrich’s book “Pie”)

9″ partially pre-baked crust
1/2 cup butter
4oz bittersweet chocolate
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 Tbsp fine cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup half & half
1 tsp vanilla

Melt the butter & chocolate gently.
Combine dry ingredients. Whisk in eggs, egg yolk, cream & vanilla. Whisk in the chocolate mixture. Pour into cooled pie crust. Bake 55-65 minutes at 325F, turning in the middle to bake evenly. It’s done when it’s formed a thin, crisp top crust and barely jiggles when shaken. Cool at least 90 minutes.

Today I made this recipe and it is incredibly easy to make and this is what it looked like when it came from the oven.

It sort of looks like a Brownie Pie doesn’t it?  It has the same kind of texture on top – which sounds like a slight crunch when you touch it… and it smelled divine.  But I couldn’t leave it alone… I wanted to spruce it up a bit more.

So, I made whipped cream and piped it around the edge because I still wanted to show off the top of the pie.

Then I decided it needed one more touch…. shaved chocolate….

… there!  Now it was ready for delivery!

Yesterday afternoon my daughter Alexandra suggested a name for a pie. The lady that she suggested is the mother of one of my daughter’s best friends and her name is JoAnn.  We’ve known each other for about ten years and while I haven’t seen her in a while, I always think of her fondly.   Each time I see her I am impressed by her gracefulness and her sense of humor.

Tonight Alex and I called upon JoAnn and presented her with this Chocolate Chess Pie.  She thanked me for the pie and invited us in for a visit.  We spent an hour or two catching up and before we knew it, it was time to leave.  Then we gave hugs all around and we were on our way. And it occurs to me now that I did not share these thoughts with JoAnn – and I should do that now.

I want to recognize JoAnn for being a remarkable mother to two fine sons and for being a friend and confidante to Alexandra.  I would also like to thank JoAnn (and Facebook) for helping our kids stay connected, even though they live 3,000 miles apart.   Our lives our fuller (and funnier) because of their friendship.

Day 183: Debbie

6 Oct

Today is a huge milestone for this blog (and me). As of today, I am halfway towards my goal of a making pie a day for a year! In a way, it feels as if I’ve only just begun – but it’s already been six months now.

And this all began because I had a crazy idea in the middle of the night to make “a pie a day” my gratitude project. The next morning I met my friend Debbie and asked her to talk some sense into me… but instead she encouraged me to follow through with this project, and I am very glad that she did. Debbie also sent me 250 pie tins so that I would not have to ask for my pie plates back every day (something I had not thought much about).

When I had my “grand idea” it seemed so simple – make a pie a day and give it away. There was no thought about the time it might take, the people I might meet, the emotions that would surface. I’ve spent time with folks that I might not have otherwise had the opportunity to visit; I’ve heard the words, “You’ve made my day” more times than I can count. It has been a wonderful experience so far and I am looking forward to see where the rest of the year takes me.

Today I wanted to thank Debbie for her tremendous support of my “pie” endeavor with a beautiful frittata. She saw my idea as something wonderful and I am most grateful for that.

Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible. Claire Goldberg Moses

Happy Pi Day!

14 Mar

Early this morning I received a shout out from my friend, Karen, wishing me a “Happy Pi Day” and that set the stage for the day.  I am sure I would have remembered it sooner or later, but it was nice to get the word “pie” on my “to-do” list right away.

pi day quiche prep

It took a trip to the store to gather some ingredients before I could bet started… apples, mushrooms, eggs… and then the pie making began. It was far from an orderly process, but before long, I had made the pie dough made (two kinds – one “regular” and one that was gluten-free). Then it was time to cook the vegetables for the quiches – one with broccoli and mushrooms and one with asparagus.  When those two pies were in the oven, I got the apple pie going. Finally, after a few hours, I had three pies sitting on my counter.

three pie are

Looking at those three pies on my counter made me think back to high school geometry class (it is pi day after all!)  From what I recall, at the beginning of the year, my head felt like it was swimming, but my teacher, a very patient woman named Mrs. Simmons, explained it all.  Before long, I was able to recite theorems, solve for x and y, and I learned that math could be fun.

Mrs. Simmons

Unfortunately, I don’t think I ever properly thanked Mrs. Simmons for guiding me through geometry that year and it is too late to do so now.  Claire Anita Simmons passed away nearly six years ago (I just looked it up).  I would have so loved to gift Claire Simmons a pie with my deepest thanks for sharing her love of math through teaching.

Instead, the three pies found homes with my friends. One, a teacher, was thrilled to have the Apple Pie to share with her children. The Asparagus quiche went to a friend and her husband as they face health challenges… and the Mushroom Broccoli quiche went to a friend simply because she loves my quiche.

As Pi Day 2016 comes to a close, my hope is that you all had a lovely pi(e) day. And, while you still have the chance, I hope you’ll take the time to thank a teacher who made a difference in your life.  Or for that matter, take a moment to thank anyone else you owe some thanks to. I promise, you’ll both feel good about it!

“A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.”

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 353: Happy Birthday Aaron!

24 Mar

Today is the birthday of my nephew Aaron.  He lives on the eastern side of the country and so in order to get it to him today,  I had to mail him a pie two days ago.  And since I have not figured out how to mail a fruit pie (and likely won’t before this project is over) I chose to mail him a chocolate chip cookie pie…  much like the pie I sent to my cousin Darren a few weeks ago.   It is more or less a big cookie… but hopefully one of the best cookies that he has ever had.

My husband and I moved away from the east coast shortly after Aaron was born and we did not get to spend much time with him as he was growing up.  His Mom, Amanda, did send us many pictures so that we could see how he’d grown, etc.  The photo above, was one of those pictures taken at school, and it was tucked up in with other photos in our hallway for many years.

Last year Aaron married Emily.  Unfortunately, we could not make it to the east coast for the wedding but we saw many of the beautiful photos of the wedding and the new couple taken by Aaron’s brother (and photographer) Christopher… none of which I can get my hands on at this moment!  Luckily,  Amanda sent us a photo of the newlyweds, taken with her last summer.  You can see that cute little Aaron has become quite a handsome man.

Aaron, we send you our best wishes for a very happy birthday… and wish you a wonderful year to come!

Family faces are magic mirrors looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future.
— Gail Lumet Buckley

Day 338: Sharon

9 Mar

Apple Crumb Pie

It was in the Fall of 2010 when I met Sharon.  She was in Kirby Shaw‘s choir (as was I) and in the same section as me (soprano).  After that initial meeting, I found out that we both had sons in the senior class at Ashland High School. Soon after, we both found ourselves on the committee that asked for and coordinated food donations from myriad businesses (My sincerest thanks to everyone that donated!  It was a smashing success!) for the Senior All-Night Party that followed graduation.  It was held at the Rogue Valley Family Fun Center.  What a night that was!  There was the initial chaos, but in short order, everything was under control thanks to Sharon and her husband, Tom.

Sharon and I share another similarity: like many of our peers, we find ourselves in the middle of life.  At one end we have children who are leaving (or preparing to leave) the nest, and at the other end, we have parents who are needing us more than before.  It is a challenging time that so many of us face, and yet, even though it is common occurrence, it is not without its difficulties.

Today when I thought of a pie recipient, Sharon came to mind. We spent a lot of time together in the last year and now that our kids have graduated, I hardly ever see her.  What has not changed though is that Sharon is still always thinking and taking care of other people.  In fact, when I went to deliver this pie to her door, she was at another friends door bringing help to them.

Tonight, I want to recognize and thank Sharon for her friendship, her selflessness, and her dedication (to her family and her community).  We are lucky to have people like her in our little hamlet.

A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be.  ~Douglas Pagels

Day 305: Michaela

5 Feb

At Isla de Navidad

This morning we met up with David and his family near our apartment.  We walked up the street to the church dedicated to St. Anthony and I told them about the “miracle” that occurred there about 40 years ago.  Seems there was a hurricane in September of 1971 and the townspeople were in the church praying for assistance when suddenly the storm abated.  At the same time that that happened, the outstretched arms of Christ on the cross suddenly fell and hung at his side.  This was deemed a miracle and the arms have remained in that position ever since.

After we had everyone organized and all details handled, we  only had an hour or so to spend together before David and family had to head back to Guadalajara.  With so little time to spend, we decided to take  the short drive to Colamilla.  We eventually found ourselves on a beautiful beach where we took some photos, found some pretty shells,  and then we had to say our goodbyes.

After bidding farewell, my husband and I walked along the beach for hours and then walked along the beautiful, and private, golf course which is part of the Grand Bay Hotel.  Finally we found our way to Mary’s  – a restaurant along the beach on the other side of the island where we had a refreshing cerveza while we waited for the boat to take us back to Barra.

Once we were back in town, I was happy to find a local grocer selling strawberries because I wanted to use them to decorate the top of my custard pie.  This pie was made for Michaela, a woman who lives a few doors down from where we are staying in Barra, and she is very good friends with the owners of our apartment. Michaela has been friendly and helpful during our stay and we enjoy stopping by her shop.  Each morning as we pass, Michaela smiles broadly and  greets us saying,  “Buenos Dias.”  In the evening she offers a “Buenos Noches” as we head home to bed.

For her gracious hospitality and warm welcome to Barra de Navidad, tonight I gave Michaela a Vanilla Custard Pie garnished with strawberries.  A simple gift for a simply lovely lady.

Day 303: El Caballo

3 Feb

Pelicans along the shores

Today we awoke to a beautiful sunny morning and before we went anywhere I wanted to prepare my pie.  Today’s pie was for our friend Dale, who is known by a nickname here in Barra de Navidad.  Somewhere along the line someone mentioned that he looked a bit like the famous Mexican actor named Alberto Rojas who is affectionately referred to as “el caballo.”  Ever since then Dale became “el caballo” to his friends in Barra.

The pie that I was making for “our” el caballo was a version of a pie made in Ashland, Oregon.  It is called Dick Hay Pie in honor of Richard Hay who is the principal theater and scenic designer for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Dick Hay Pie is made with three main ingredients: peanut butter, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate.  Since I had brought peanut butter and chocolate with me,  I went out to purchase some ice cream at one of the local shops.  Once I got back to the apartment I made a chocolate cookie crust and let it cool while the ice cream softened up a bit.  Then it was simply a matter of sandwiching one thin layer of peanut butter between two layers of vanilla ice cream in the crust.  It was topped with a heavy drizzle of chocolate and then the pie went back into the freezer for about 8 hours.

With the pie taken care of, we decided to take a walk along the shoreline.   We saw more of the damage from the recent hurricane.  We also saw hundreds of pelicans in the area.  Watching them fly, dive, and land on the water made me think that’s what birds must have looked like in the age of the dinosaurs.

After our walk we met up with our friends and took a boat across the water to Colamilla for lunch at one of the restaurants along the shore.  I love that these restaurants are built on the beach, the floors are the sand,  and that the ocean laps on the shore just a few feet from the tables.  It is so relaxing!  This restaurant even had a few hammocks installed should someone need to take a short nap before the boat ride back to town.

Alberto Rojas, El Caballo

This evening we all met up and had an impromptu celebration at the hotel for el caballo’s birthday.   We sang Feliz Cumpleanos and toasted his health.  As we cut up the pie we found that it was so rich that one nine-inch pie was more than enough for 14 people!   I encourage you to make one of these pies for your next special occasion… it is easy to make and so delicious… and definitely worth it!

Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons. Ruth Ann Schabacker

Day 300: Lucy

31 Jan

Lucy and her Dolphins

Before we left the apartment today I put together a Chocolate Cream Pie using the same basic custard recipe that I followed yesterday except in today’s batch I added about 4 ounces of chocolate.  Later I tried making whipped cream with what I thought was whipping cream but eventually I figured out that it was closer to half and half (which will never hold a soft peak no matter how long you whip it!).  So until I had whipping cream, I just let the pie set up in the fridge.

Then we took a walk along the beach of Barra de Navidad for the first time since we arrived.  We had heard others mention that in the last week or so there had been an underground (under sea?) earthquake that released some toxic levels of gas which caused thousands of fish to die.   This disaster followed the hurricane that occurred last fall in Barra and caused quite a bit of damage to many of the buildings along the shoreline.

It is hard to understand why some regions experience so much devastation and others seem to go unscathed.  And yet we did not see people complaining at all.  Instead the waiters beckoned us to eat and the vendors set up their wares to sell and somehow the people just carry on as best they can.

After our walk we found a grocer who sold whipping cream and once home I whipped it up and spread it atop the pie.  Finally I found a chocolate bar and grated some of it for the garnish and then we were off to deliver the pie to Lucy.

Lucy runs a restaurant in Barra named appropriately, Lucy’s.  We first met her on our last visit to Barra.  We were introduced to her by our friends Marie and Dale and have enjoyed several cold drinks and the occasional hot meal there.

Lucy has a way of drawing people to her.  She has had guests from around the globe and she has displayed flags from those countries on her wall.  In addition, we saw  she had posted hand-lettered welcome signs to returning visitors.   It’s that kind of thing that keeps her guests coming back year after year – a warm welcome and the knowledge that they have been remembered.

To recognize her for her warmth and hospitality, tonight I brought Lucy the Chocolate Cream Pie.  There is no doubt in my mind that she will share it with her many friends.

I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.  Nancie J. Carmody

 

Day 299: Cynthia

30 Jan

Today we woke up in Barra de Navidad which is a lovely town in the state of Jalisco.  My husband did some research online and found a studio apartment for us to rent which would enable me to make pies while we are on vacation.  Until I find an oven that is available these pies will not be baked but rather “cooked.”

For my first pie in Mexico I chose to make a simple custard pie with shredded coconut.  To begin, we headed to a little store (tienda) and purchased butter, eggs, cream, flour, and vanilla (mantequilla, juevos, crema, harina, y vanilla).  I had brought with me crushed graham cracker crumbs for the crust and shredded coconut for the filling.

We were in a hurry to catch a bus so I asked my husband to assemble the crust.  He did this by using a small saute pan to melt the butter and then he added the graham cracker crumbs and toasted them lightly.  Once that was done, he pressed the crumbs into a pie tin and put it in the fridge to set.

Meanwhile I made coconut custard on the two burner stove that we are lucky to have available.  In mere moments it was thickened and smelled heavenly.  I poured the warm custard into the crust and covered it with plastic (to prevent a skin from forming) and then put it into the fridge.  But before I did that, we snapped a few photos.

Coconut Custard Pie and ingredients

Pie with a View

The View

The finished Pie topped with Toasted Coconut

After a day trip to La Manzanilla (where we saw crocodiles!) and a bus ride home that included a man serenading the passengers with songs like “Besa Me Mucho” we came back to our apartment to find the pie had set up nicely.  I toasted some coconut to decorate the top and brought the pie to Cynthia, the woman who oversees this apartment for the owner.  I tried to explain the pie project to her family in my best Spanish and I think they understood the message – it’s all about showing gratitude.

Jose, Cynthia, and Patty

Hasta manana….