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Breaking the Silence

2 Mar

Today I will break the longest silence that I’ve had on my blog. Honestly, I have not fallen off the planet, though it felt like I did for a while.  In the past few months I have made plenty of pies… and I’d like to share some of those photos with you now.

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Putting the finishing touches on a pie.

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Blanca at the tienda gets her Chocolate, Coconut and Banana Cream Pie

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A Coconut Cream Pie for Florina

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Coco and I delivered a Chocolate Cream Pie to Jose and Patty

As you can see, some of those pies were given away in Mexico. Yes, I was lucky to go to Barra de Navidad once again, this time with my kids, Alexandra and Coco. It was so good to see them enjoying the town that I have come to love and find that they are hoping to return. They were comfortable in this small fishing village and were embraced by the same people who have been kind to me.
Michaela, the pharmacist who lives a few doors down from our apartment sat and visited with us many times. She was thrilled to meet my kids and I was happy to see them enjoying her attention.  Then there was Ricardo, our friend who owns a taco stand. When he saw me a few weeks ago, his face brightened and he said, “It’s Karen Amarotico!” We are Facebook friends after all, but I haven’t seen him in a year, and I was touched that he remembered my name. Ricardo and his wife, Nacy, even invited us to their home for a private dinner. The chile rellenos filled with shrimp were delicious and I was so honored to be considered a part of their family!

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And of course, we saw Jose of the Malecon. He’s no longer working in Barra, but rather in the neighboring town of Melaque. Last year, he’d asked me if I could bring him a guitar on my next visit and thanks to my good friend, Tim, I was able to do just that. Jose seemed completely amazed but very happy. It was fun to watch Jose and Coco take turns playing and singing and bridging the language barrier with music.

IMG_1028.JPGMe with Alexandra and Coco
This trip, my kids joined me because my marriage is over. (The details of the dissolution are not important.)  It’s not that I don’t want to be open about the pain and challenges of this phase, but I’m simply learning that my life is not going to be what it was… it will be brand new. And isn’t that what happens?  We think we know what’s coming… but we really don’t.  Yes, John Lennon, life is what happens while we are busy making other plans.  Life also throws curve balls now and then, and sometimes, life sucker punches us in the gut. The pain lessens over time… but it never goes away forever.

Clearly I am not alone in dealing with the pain of loss. It happens to all of us… and if we are open to sharing the pain, then maybe we can show others that while the pain is terrible, it is survivable. If anyone would care to offer the tips, strategies, or words of encouragement that helped them through a time like this, I would love to hear them. Thank you in advance for being willing to share. It means so much to me.

What is most important right now is to say thank you to the many friends and family that have come to my side to help me move forward. You all know who you are, and I am deeply grateful for your support during this difficult time.

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I’d like to end with this quote from Sheryl Sandberg’s Facebook post (following the death of her husband):

“I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well.  But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.”

And as for me, I would like to continue giving away pies.

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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 270: Welcome 2012

1 Jan

This morning as I scanned Facebook posts wishing everyone a Happy New Year, I read a note written by my friend Aimee.  She mentioned that she had recently been told about a website called 750 Words.  You can read more about it here, but in a nutshell, we are encouraged to begin each day by writing 750 words (roughly three pages).  It is based on an idea promoted in the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  As I understand it, it’s a way to release all the “clutter” in your mind so that you can allow the important thoughts, ideas, etc. to come through.

I’d read about this “practice” a few years ago, and from time to time I have begun my day in this way.  The first time I tried it, it was hard to imagine what I would find to write about but in a few minutes the words began to pour onto the page and in ten or 15 minutes I was done.  Each successive attempt at writing my three pages has been equally successful.

So, why don’t I do this more often?  I suppose sometimes I get lazy or I forget about it or maybe I feel too busy with other things.  But I think that will change with the “750 words” website.  One big difference is that you are typing and not writing long hand (which makes reading my work infinitely easier!) and there are little rewards built-in to make it fun.  Today it took me about 15 minutes to get to 750 words and I felt better at the end of the exercise.  While not really a New Year’s resolution, I hope to make this a daily habit and encourage you to see if it is something that would interest you.

As for my pie of the day,  a neighbor of mine mentioned that her friend Peggy might like to receive a pie.  She thought a quiche might be appreciated and that was pretty much all that I needed to get started.  I cooked bacon, spinach and onions and grated some sharp white cheddar for this pie.  In no time at all it was in the oven and an hour or so later we were on our way to deliver the quiche.

I was met at the door by a man who welcomed me in and went to announce me to Peggy.  When she first saw me, she definitely seemed a bit curious.  Immediately I mentioned my neighbor’s name so that she would feel more at ease and then I briefly explained my pie project and that today’s pie was for her.  When she had heard my tale,  Peggy’s beautiful smile was the best reaction I could ask for… and an absolutely wonderful beginning for the new year.

Because that’s what kindness is.  It’s not doing something for someone else because they can’t, but because you can.  ~Andrew Iskander

Day 239: Mel

1 Dec

My daughter saw a message on Facebook last night from a friend. He mentioned that his Dad had recently had some health challenges and asked his friends to keep his Dad in their thoughts and prayers. After she read the message, Alexandra asked if I would please bring a quiche to her friend’s Dad.

Of course the answer was yes… and that is why this morning I gathered together ingredients to make a quiche for Mel and his wife. They included beautiful crimini mushrooms, sharp cheddar cheese, spinach and onions. In what seemed like no time at all, the quiche was in the oven and in less than an hour, it was done.

Once it was cool, I walked up to Mel’s house and since he was not at home, I left the quiche on a chair on his porch. Later, I called and spoke with Mel’s wife and explained who I was and told her that I was the one who left the quiche. She told me that Mel was doing well and thanked me for the gift. I can’t help but think it was such an easy way to let them both know that we were thinking of them and sending good wishes their way.

Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver. Barbara De Angelis