Little Chefs Thursday, Aug 1 2013 

When I was 12 years-old, I won 1st place in a cherry pie baking contest at my school that was sponsored by Northern Illinois Gas Company. I went on to a second bake-off to compete against the winners from other schools in the Chicago area. In that contest my pie won 4th Place – my essay won 1st.

I baked a pie just about every day the weeks prior to each contest. I’m thankful my parents allowed me to do that because I’m sure it was difficult for them to afford the ingredients. But that practice actually was an investment in mastering the skill of pie baking. Making the crust in particular can be intimidating for even adult bakers. Learning how to do that at a young age has allowed me to whip up meat and fruit pies all my life.

I wanted to share that ability with my six-year-old granddaughter. Kaylee is my son-in-law Steve’s daughter from a previous marriage, and I treasure the time I have with her when she is in town. She is smart, compassionate, and delightful and one of my favorite young ladies.

We decided on baking the pies in individual pans, and I was especially happy she chose to make cherry. While we baked we discussed safe food handling, the importance of each ingredient, and of course, the steps in making the pies. We also talked about our daily thoughts and concerns.

Kaylee is a quick learner and did an excellent job of measuring, cooking the filling, rolling out the dough, and sealing the pies.

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The end result was perfect. Kaylee’s pies were as beautiful as they were delicious.

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It’s never too early to introduce children to cooking and baking. The benefits are many. Young chefs learn to appreciate the time and money involved in food preparation. They are more eager to try foods they prepare. They also learn not be intimidated to cook later in life.

Best of all, we gain priceless time with them to exchange ideas and what weighs heavy on our minds. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation Kaylee and I shared while baking. It’s a memory we both appreciate.

* * *

Cherry Pie

Pastry:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lard or vegetable fat (Crisco)
4 tablespoons Ice water

Filling:
2 cans red tart cherries
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
¾ teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350.

I. Drain cherries. Combine juice from one can, sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan. Cook till thick and clear. Remove pan from burner. Add butter, almond extract, and cherries. Cool.

II. Mix flour and salt. Cut in the fat until the size of peas. Sprinkle ice water onto the flour mixture. Carefully add a little more water if needed. Gently form the dough into a ball. Cut the ball in half. Roll out one half of the dough about 1 inch larger than the inverted pie pan for the bottom crust. Prick the crust and lay it in the pie pan.

Pour the filling into the pie pan.

Roll out the top crust. Slit in the center. Dampen the edges of the bottom crust. Lay the top crust over the pie and seal.

Bake pie in 450 oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350. Bake about 30 more minutes.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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Irreplaceable Thursday, May 23 2013 

The recent devastation in Oklahoma reminds us of what is important in life – other lives. Our first reaction in the midst of such destruction is, “Where are my loved ones?” “How is everyone?” Nothing matters if the people who mean most to us are injured, ill, or lost.

But, our humanity also mourns the loss of our stuff, some of which is irreplaceable. Seeing homes crushed like cracker crumbs makes me think of how that would feel to lose everything. What would it be like to lose photos of my great-grandmother, Grandma Rose’s rosary, Dad’s sailor hat, Mom’s silver, and my children’s first artwork? Life goes on, but I know I would mourn the loss of those items.

And I can’t imagine looking around seeing all the agony; all the neighbors and local businesses that also are hurting. Do they have their medications? Do they have access to needed funds? Will they ever recover from the trauma? How will this challenge change the course of their lives? Certainly, life as they know it will never be the same.

I pray for you people of Moore. May God give you the strength and courage to recover and march on stronger, wiser, and able to find happiness once again.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Check Points Thursday, Apr 25 2013 

Periodically, we benefit by stopping and looking at where we are, what we are doing, and where we want to go. Without reassessment, we either take our many blessings for granted or do not make the changes that will help us grow. We get stuck in a rut, spin our wheels, and go nowhere.

Our housing, job, or relationship may have been the perfect solution at the time we chose them but no longer work well for us. We continue working in an office because we enjoy fellow employees but know we have no room for advancement, would prefer a different position, or could increase our earning potential elsewhere. We live in a home that is currently too large, too small, or too far from work. We remain in relationships that are difficult or even detrimental because we do not want to be alone.

Making life-changes can be scary. We worry about making the best decision as if life and death depends upon it. But such fears, which most often are without reason, hold us back from attaining our dreams. Few choices alter our future so significantly that everything is affected by them. Most only affect a segment of our lives and can be changed or modified as we go along.

That pathway to a happier, fuller life begins with a pause. Stop and look around. Then take one little step.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Now You See It. Now You Don’t. Tuesday, Aug 14 2012 

Magic is easy, once you know the secret. At least that is what my husband, Marshall Brodien, always says. And life is like that too. If you know the secrets of life, it is so much easier.

In fact, there are several principles of magic that can be applied to life. Here are a few life-lessons I’ve learned from magic:

  1. What appears to be very mysterious often is quite simple.
  2. There are a whole lot of things going on around you that you don’t see.
  3. Some people intentionally misdirect your attention from what’s important.
  4. Every industry has a personality and magicians are no different. Actually, they are very different.
  5. You don’t need to know how everything works. Sometimes it’s best to relax and enjoy the show.
  6. Some careers are more fun than work.
  7. You don’t have to accept the “cards” forced upon you.
  8. Even when the magic doesn’t go as planned, you must keep moving on with the show.
  9. No matter how talented or industrious you are, your audience may not applaud you.
  10. Your presentation is more important than your ability.

©Mary K. Doyle

(Photo by Stephanie Maury. Used with permission.)

Birthday Wisdom Wednesday, May 30 2012 

My friend, Terry Evanswood, once said that we know we’re old when we see each other and announce, “You look great!” like it’s a surprise to still look good at this age. I certainly see the years on my face. The wrinkles around my eyes are like tree rings – at least one for every year.

My birthday is this week, and since I am getting older by the minute, I’d like to think I’m a bit wiser too, so here’s my birthday wisdom:

  • If someone says, “Trust me. I know what I’m talking about,” they probably don’t.
  • The last bite of chocolate cake tastes best at the kitchen sink when everyone thinks you’re washing dishes.
  • No matter how bad things get, something good is simultaneously happening.
  • Television Commercials are loud so you can hear them on bathroom breaks.
  • Life can suddenly change course in seconds.
  • The longer you live the more you understand the waste of time in sweating the small stuff.
  • We’re all a bit quirky.
  • When you’re tired or stressed, give yourself a time out before you do or say something you will regret.
  • Everything really does look better after a good night sleep.
  • Relationships are fragile. One major hurt can damage a long-time connection forever.
  • There’s no need in worrying about what to do. Answers clearly reveal themselves with prayer and patience.
  • The delightful child you remember before their high school years will return after graduation.
  • Put your faith in God only. All other people, places, and things are flawed and will fail you at some point.
  • You only want to iron when the power is out.
  • Relationships are like dances. There are lots of styles. It’s your choice to waltz, swing, or tango with your partner.
  • Speed limits posted on highways are for suggestion only. No one really drives that speed.
  • Proving you are right in a discussion is pointless. If someone thinks the grass is purple, they aren’t going to listen to your reasoning.
  • Most of what seems so terribly important at the moment will be of no consequence in a year or two.
  • The world is full of people who need your love.
  • Smiles really are contagious.
  • Life is a gift. Enjoy the present.

©Mary K. Doyle

(Photo by Steven Lukasiewicz.)

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