Tag Archives: Alexandra

Angels among us

28 Oct

When feelings of sadness and loss take over, I find what helps me get out of that mindset is doing something nice for someone else. Last week when I spoke with my daughter and heard her stressing about her move from one part of Manhattan to another, I did the first thing that came to mind: I booked a flight to help her.

It was an easy decision because I had a $500 voucher which made the cost of my last minute flight very inexpensive. When I arrived at the airport early in the morning and checked in, I noticed that I didn’t have a seat assignment and asked the agent what to do. She handed me a ticket marked “8 C” and I boarded the plane.  Moments later, another passenger approached me and said that I was in her seat. Turns out, we were both assigned 8C.  That same gate agent (angel number one) came to me and bumped to first class!  What a nice surprise! .

On my second flight, I was seated at the window next to an older couple named Jack and Gloria (angels two and three) . They were absolutely delightful.  About an hour or two into our five hour flight, we began chatting, and continued talking until we landed. It was amazing how the time had flown!  As they walked off to await their plane to Lisbon, they each gave me a hug. As I looked back, they stood waving to me.  Truly, that was not your typical flight experience!

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The weekend move went very well with the help of our dear friend Josh, and two great movers (angles four, five and six). Once all of Alex’s belongings made it to the new apartment, we realized we needed to get a few pieces of furniture and so we scanned the Craigslist ads. Alex located a bookcase a few blocks away… and then a side table about 14 blocks away.  The owner of the table, Louise, (angel number seven) said it wasn’t too heavy so we marched off to get it.

When we arrived at Louise’s apartment, it was clear that she was also moving. She is from England, works for the UN, and is being moved back to the middle east and she was getting rid of a lot of stuff. It took some work to get the table out of her apartment and soon we were on the street trying to carry it home.  We’d only gone about a block before we were both panting and sweating and almost in tears about our insane plan.

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About then, a lady approached us and commented on Alex’s dog, Bennet. Yes, we were trying to move a table and walk the dog at the same time!  Totally crazy.  The lady, Sally, (angel number 8) looked at us and asked if we were okay.  I told her, “not really” and explained our predicament.  Sally mentioned a service that would help us move… and we thanked her and she walked away.  A moment later, she was back and offered to bring us a dolly that we could use to move the table.  Honestly, I wanted to hug her!  With Sally’s dolly we were able to wheel the table home in no time.  Crisis averted!

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Clearly, we have been blessed with angels on this journey.  To begin offering thanks for our good fortune,  I made Louise an apple pie.  We called ahead and when we met her at the door, I presented it. I explained my gratitude project and told her how grateful we were for her gifts.  Louise told us that this was her first “American” apple pie and I’m so very glad that I was able to make that happen.

We still have a little more work to be done before the nesting process is complete and there’s an apple pie in the oven to thank angel number nine right now.

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”  Hebrews 13:2

A Crying Baby and a Few Pies

27 Oct

Late last month I boarded a flight to Portland for the first leg of my journey to see my daughter, Alex, in New York. I sat in my assigned seat, greeted my seatmate and waited for takeoff.  A few minutes later, a young couple with a crying infant headed for their seats – one row in front of and across the aisle from me. Moments later the baby’s cries became more frantic.  At that point, the mother handed the baby to the dad, and he sat there holding his screaming baby. The “mom” in me thought that by waving at the baby I could distract him for a moment, and maybe his cries would abate.  Instead, the baby’s Dad saw me waving and handed the baby over to me.

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I was stunned!  The baby was screaming so immediately I tried bouncing him on my knees. Then I decided this situation called for serious measures and stood up and began rocking him from back and forth. The first flight attendant said that this was okay to do and that he’d let me know when we were ready for takeoff, so I continued to rock and talk quietly to the child.  In a matter of minutes, his cries became less frantic, and soon he stopped crying altogether. Then I noticed that the baby’s head was beginning to lean on my chest and before long he was sound asleep.  At that moment, the second flight attendant told me that I needed to sit down, so I handed the baby back to his parents. When I did that, the flight attendant looked at me in disbelief and said, “He’s not yours?”

No, he wasn’t mine, but I was happy to help because (let’s be honest) many of us have had that same experience. We’re stressed out for so many reasons (for example, packing and getting ready for a trip, rushing to the airport, etc) and of course, our baby picks up on that stress. Instead of being an annoyed passenger thinking “Oh no, a crying baby” I wanted to do something if I could and, fortunately, it worked out. The baby slept for the rest of the flight, Mom and Dad seemed more relaxed, and I got to soothe (and hold) a new baby.  Win-win-win!  What a way to start my trip!

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The reason for my visit to New York was so that I could help celebrate Alexandra’s, 27th birthday.  We did so by attending The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (cost: free!), The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (cost: free!), and the musical The Book of Mormon (SRO tix only $27!).  We also took long walks, dined around town, and simply spent time together. It was such a good visit and I know that I am a very lucky mama!

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Alexandra

While there I baked three apple pies… one for my brother-in-law, Mike, one for our friend Tom’s birthday, and one for my daughter’s amazing friend, Royce.

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Royce with me and his Apple Pie and an Apple Pie for Tom.

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Enjoying scrumptious bread at Sullivan Street Bakery and visiting Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial site.

Once back home, I baked another Apple Pie for one of our favorite singer/songwriters, the amazing Martin Sexton, who opened Jefferson Public Radio’s One World Performance Series. Then, a few days later, I baked yet another Apple Pie for a woman who donated to a charity that I help with. It was such fun to surprise her with a pie to thank her for her gift. Finally, a Bacon and Roasted Pepper quiche found its way to a dear friend who is going through chemo. It’s something nourishing that she can eat when she feels like eating and will also hold for a few days when she is not able to do so.

quiche for JoAnn

It’s been a long time since I’ve written and part of the reason for my delay was that there were so many stories in the news that have felt especially devastating. Some days I’ve found it hard to read the paper or listen to the radio because the stories break my heart. At times like this, I wish I could do something magical and change the world for the better. Until then, I will continue to give away pies… and maybe, every so often, I’ll rock a crying baby.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”  David Mamet

A Quick Visit to see Dad turns into “Bienvenido a Miami!”

20 Jul

Just a few days ago I was sitting in a window seat at a coffee shop in Miami watching the rain fall and wondering how I got there. Well, actually, I know how I got there… but as many times as I’ve been to Florida I’ve never ventured much beyond my Dad’s little town of Greenacres. Okay, that’s not entirely true because I’ve driven to Boynton Beach countless times but never quite this far.

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A sampling of the Wynwood Walls

The neighborhood I found myself in is called Wynwood……. and it’s an art community famous for the many murals that are painted on the sides of its buildings. There’s a youthful excitement there that I have not experienced in West Palm Beach… and I really enjoyed it. Alexandra was with me and while she was off working on a project for Warby Parker, I sat sipping a latte watching the people, and the storm clouds, go by.

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Alexandra with Grandpa

Alexandra and I met in Florida to visit my Dad as his 80th birthday is this month.  I won’t be able to be there for his “actual” birthday but felt it important to spend time with him and see how he is doing.  It’s been more than two years since his stroke and while he is doing remarkably well (given the severity of the stroke) he is still upset that he cannot do what he used to do.  And I struggle (still!) because I can’t fix things for him.

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One of my Dad’s neighbors.

So what can I do? Take him out to eat!  One day he wanted to get lunch and instead of the usual fast food burgers I suggested pizza… at a “real” restaurant.  Since I am somewhat unfamiliar with the area, I used my iphone and found a wonderful place (thank you Siri!) called Zuccarelli’s.  I ordered a Marguerite Pizza and it was sooooo darned good!  The aroma of the fresh basil was intoxicating and the crust was perfection. (Can you tell that I really liked that pizza?)

Pizza with Dad at Zuccarelli's

Dad at Zuccarelli’s

The next morning, I decided to make an asparagus and white cheddar quiche for one of Dad’s neighbors.  Barbara has been a tremendous help to me since Dad had his stroke and I wanted to do something to show her my appreciation. Without a rolling-pin, I had to improvise, but I think it came out rather nicely, even if I do say so myself.

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Now I am back in Oregon, and I still wish that I could do more for my Dad.  It’s got to be really hard for him to deal with a changing mind and body.  If there was a switch I could flip that would make him better, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  Until then, I have to let him live out his days as best he can. And make sure that I fully enjoy every moment that I have…  to spend with my kids, my husband, my friends.  Even if that means posing for silly selfies now and then.

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Sharing our funny faces at the pool.

When I hear somebody sigh, “Life is hard”, I am always tempted to ask, “Compared to what?”

Sydney J. Harris

Autumn Arrives… and there are pies (and other treats) in the forecast!

23 Sep

Today in Ashland we awoke to gray skies and much cooler weather.  How did that happen?  Just a few days ago the temperature reached 95 and right now the thermometer is barely hitting 65!  Welcome to Fall everyone!

That last month of summer quickly slipped by me.  Perhaps I was busy but it went by so fast!  One minute we were camping and then it was back to school again (not for my kids but still) and the leaves are now changing.  Now before I get off on a rant (I know, you’re all thinking, “whew”) let me just share a few of the baked goodies that I managed to squeeze into the last few weeks.

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One day, Emile and I were on our morning walk when I saw my friend going to her car.  I called out “Hi… How are you?” She responded, “Not good.  My dog is hemorrhaging.  I need to bring him to the vet.”  I was stunned into silence and don’t even know if I managed to wave goodbye.  As we continued our walk, Emile turned to me and said, “There’s a pie in her future isn’t there?”  He knows me so well!  This gluten-free cheesecake/pear tart (which was later topped with toasted almonds – sorry, no photo of that) was brought to that woman to let her know that I understood the pain of losing a beloved pet.

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Then there were the quiches… with crimini mushrooms and peppers that I roasted (and what a wonderful scent they left in my kitchen!).  One of these was brought to a friend with an ailing partner.  My heart aches for them both.  The other quiche was for our new interim pastor (aka Mary Poppins) on the day that she arrived in the valley.  It was my hope that by bringing her something homemade she would feel welcomed into our community.

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These chocolate cupcakes were my contribution to my friend Marie’s birthday party.  We laughed trying to decide if they were my version of Ding Dong’s or Ho Ho’s.  All I know is that they are simply delicious and deliciously simple to make!  I make my favorite cupcakes, fill them with a squirt of whipped cream, and coat them in chocolate (melted with a bit of coconut oil) and then top with more whipped cream.  Yum!

Here is a photo of them midway through the process… I use a paring knife to cut a slit in the top of each cupcake and then a pastry bag to fill the centers with the whipped cream.  It’s really easy!  By the time you coat them with chocolate and top them with cream, the inside cream becomes a hidden delightful surprise!

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Last week I picked many bowls of delicious grapes at my friend Stella’s house and because I don’t own a food dryer, tried my hand at making raisins in my oven.  It took about a day at 175 degrees… and it worked!  They are the best raisins I’ve ever had (except maybe for the muscat raisins we used to get at the market in south San Francisco).  I probably picked 15 pounds of grapes… and they cooked down to about 3 pounds of raisins…. but they are soooooo good!

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Another treat that I made was for my neighbors, Ellen and Owen.  They came home after a very long “vacation” to visit their granddaughter (and her parents of course!)  As sweets are out of the question for Owen, I decided to make bagels to remind him of his time in New York.  I used this recipe by John D. Lee because it makes bagel making fast (just about 90 minutes) and very easy!  These bagels are incredibly tasty;  I know because I devoured one minutes after it came out of the oven.  Do try this recipe… you won’t be disappointed!

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Finally, last Saturday I created a platter of gluten-free sweets (coconut almond macaroons, raspberry-topped brownies, and peanut butter cookies) for supporters of the Ashland Schools Foundation.  They were treated to a beautiful event at Bel Fiore Winery and though I am sorry I couldn not attend, I was very happy to contribute.

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That’s about all I have to share right now.  Next time I write I hope to share tales of my visit to see my daughter, Alexandra, for her birthday.  She’s been working at Warby Parker since the spring and I am anxious to see New York through her eyes.  Til then, I wish you all sweet dreams!

Pies for so many reasons!

7 Mar

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Coco and Alex, meet their host sister Lucka

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur and for good reason.  First my daughter , Alexandra, decided to come home for a brief visit before she began her new job (with Warby Parker!) and then my son, Coco, surprised me one night with a knock at our front door (he and his Dad were in cahoots about this).  So, for about a week I was back in Mom mode (my favorite place) and let a lot of other things go.  Well, except for pies.

While she was home, Alexandra mentioned that she wanted to stop at her (and our) alma mater, Southern Oregon University, to visit with her adviser, Rene.  A perfect occasion to bring along a pie!  The ingredients – apples, butter, flour, and sugar – came together quickly and as it baked we got ourselves ready.  Soon we were heading over to the university on a beautiful day.

Alex with pie at SOUAlexandra with Apple Pie

We were thrilled to find Rene (and office manager, Kathy) available to visit for a few minutes and they seemed happy to see us as well (or was it  the still warm pie?)  Alexandra is one of Rene’s first legacy students.  He was a professor to her parents (Emile and I) twenty plus years ago and then was her professor as well.  He still recalls seeing us carry her to school in the baby backpack.   Thanks for everything Rene!

Alexandra with Rene and Kathy

One day during the week I noticed that my friend, Margie Cicerrella, was featured in  the local paper.  Margie is retiring after many years of working as a children’s librarian.  Margie has been a driving force for literacy and among many other things spearheaded  the “Welcome Baby Book Bags” program – a program designed to promote language development in infants by giving new parents a cloth bag filled with board books.  For that alone, Margie deserves a million pies!  But alas, all I could do was bring her this one – a sweet potato and pecan pie.  Thank you Margie for all the wonderful work that you’ve done!

P1000559After a fun-filled week with Alexandra and Coco (cooking together, seeing plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and singing along to Coco’s guitar playing), sadly, they both had to return home. The first day after they left I must admit that I felt pretty blue.  Fortunately, I had agreed to teach a friends’ troop of girl scouts how to bake a pie (and share my story of giving away pies) that very afternoon.

At first, I was a little nervous but the girls were simply delightful.  They listened to my brief talk and then the kitchen was a flurry of flour, pie dough, and pumpkin pie filling!  Lots of questions were hurled at me, but I managed to answer most of them, and at the end of the afternoon, the counter was filled with pies.  There’s nothing like making pie – and helping kids learn to bake – to fix the blues!

P1000584The last pie I made this week was for the family of an old friend who succumbed to cancer a few days ago.  My heart aches for her husband and children and bringing them dinner and a pie felt like a way to ease their pain… and I’m sure my friend would love knowing that her family was cared for in this way.

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“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” —Alan D. Wolfelt

Cold Pizza for Breakfast?

21 Oct

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If you just read those words and thought of Christine Lavin, then you know that “Cold Pizza for Breakfast” is the title of one of her songs and also her new audio book!  If you did not realize that… well, I hope I can change that and introduce you to one of my family’s favorite singer/songwriters.

We were first introduced to Christine in the mid-80’s when my friend Lauretta sent me her CD, “Future Fossils“.   This album is a mix of funny songs and deeply moving ones.  A few of my favorites: The Dakota – a beautiful and touching song dedicated to John Lennon, The Bag Ladies Ball (a poem about what she would do if she became a millionaire), and, one of her funniest songs, “Regretting What I Said.”

Our family played that CD so many times on road trips that we knew all of the words to the songs by heart.  In fact, at our annual camping trip, my daughter, Alexandra and I recited “The Bag Ladies Ball” as our contribution to the talent show.  I really admire Christine’s ability to capture feelings that many of us have, and find a way to put them into words and then match them with music that fits them perfectly.

As I was writing this, I remembered yet another of Christine’s songs… it’s called, “The Moment Slipped Away.” I just listened to it again… and it occurs to me that Christine might have planted a seed for my blog many years ago.  In the song she encourages us to share kind words with one another (and not to keep them to ourselves.)  I’ve certainly tried to do that with the people I have shared pies with over these last few years!

Last Saturday night we were delighted to attend Christine’s concert put on by St. Clair Productions.  As always, we enjoyed Christine’s musical talent, her vibrant spirit, and her showmanship (Would you believe she can twirl glow in the dark batons?)  To thank her for being such an integral part of our family (unbeknownst to her!) for all these years, I brought her a Kick Ass Apple Almond Pie.  Thanks Christine… from the bottom of my heart.

UPDATE!  I just received the sweetest thank you note from Christine!  In her email she sent a short video that she made… and unbelievably I am in it!  What a wonderful coincidence!  This is a day I will long remember…  Don’t you just love it when things like that happen?  

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One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.  Bob Marley

Reading Simple Dreams

 

Christine took this photo of me reading Linda Ronstadt’s book, “Simple Dreams”… after I answered her Trivia Question!

 

Life, gratitude, and pie

14 Jul

Life feels so strange right now.  Just last Sunday my husband and I drove our daughter, Alexandra, to the airport so that she could get on a plane that would take her to Denmark.  Alexandra has flown to Denmark many times before, but this time was different in one big way: she did not have a return ticket.  She has gone to Denmark to work for e-conomic, an online accounting company.  She was an intern with this company for one year and will be working with their clients in the United Kingdom.

I know this is a pretty awesome gig for a new graduate and I am very proud of what Alexandra has accomplished.  I guess I just wish that Europe was a bit closer.  It’s hard to find yourself with an empty nest and realize that your little birds are hundreds… or thousands of miles away.  That’s a long way for a mama bird to fly to give a hug… or cook a meal.  And a part of me is finding that a little bit of a challenge.

On a brighter note, a week or so ago I was honored to be interviewed by Nadine Natour from National Public Radio.  It seems that NPR had decided to do a week-long segment about pies… and I was lucky enough to share a part of my pie journey.  It was really surreal to be included in their story… and even more fun to have friends across the country tell me that they heard me on their radio.  What a thrill!

Another bright spot in the last few weeks was having a chance to meet with representatives from Guanajuato, Mexico during their visit to Ashland for the 4th of July celebration.  As you may recall from one of my previous posts, the Ashland Rotary Club has worked to raise money to help the poor people of Guanajuato and when we visited that city in May, I saw Francesca, a young girl that we met five years before. It was a very happy moment for me because it was clear that our work had made a difference in her life.

Enrique, one of the Guanajuato representatives, told me that he would see Francesca and if I wanted to send her a card or letter, he would deliver it for me. And so the night before he left Ashland, I brought Enrique a small gift for Francesca – and yesterday I received an email from him with a couple of photos.  Clearly Francesca was delighted to be remembered!

What has all this to do with pies?  Well, not much I guess.  But since I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude I was definitely in a pie baking mood.  Yesterday, while I was baking a Strawberry Rhubarb pie, my friend Maylee sent me a message that she had play tickets and asked if I wanted them.  Of course I did!  And suddenly I knew that a warm Strawberry Rhubarb pie was going to go home with Maylee.  It was my way to thank her for her friendship and thoughtfulness.

And today… I made another pie.  This one was for Marian, a 93-year-old lady from church who was the only person who seemed upset that I had not brought her a pie during my “year of pies.”  I’ve thought about that for a while and felt that it  was about time to correct that situation.  Think about it… if it was within your power to make someone happy, with such a simple gesture,  wouldn’t you want to do so?

The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.  ~John E. Southard

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. — Thornton Wilder