Stay Calm and Bake Pie — Episode 7: A Celebration of YOUR Pies

Episode 7 of “Stay Calm and Bake Pie” is here. It may be my favorite one, because it’s a celebration of all the pies you’ve been making this month.

After watching it, my friend Kee Kee (who you read more about below) texted me this:

“When this pandemic started you told me you wanted to make a difference, and maybe go stock grocery shelves (I told you that was insane!), but what you are doing with your YouTube series is inspiring people to make memories with their families, and giving them the courage to bake pies themselves (and I’m sure that courage carries over to having more confidence in the kitchen making other yummy food for their families). Such a special special episode!!!!! Bravo!!!!!”

So I guess that answers that question I still keep asking myself: HOW CAN I BE OF SERVICE TO OTHERS?

A few other people sent me messages saying that while watching this episode they couldn’t stop smiling. “So feel good!!!!! My face is sore from smiling the whole way through.” One woman, who watched it first thing this morning, even said, “I couldn’t stop smiling. And I don’t usually smile until I’ve been awake awhile.”

Even if you haven’t followed one of my pie lesson videos or made a pie, I can say with confidence that watching this video is totally worth 12-1/2 minutes of your time.

Again, thank you to everyone who has been participating in making and sharing pies. And because there were a few pictures that I either forgot or didn’t make the cutoff time, I’m posting them here.

Let’s keep baking, everyone. Let’s keep doing whatever we can to make the world a better place.

Love, Beth

EPISODE 7: Celebrating Your Pies
  

My friend Kee Kee’s pie…

I woke up this morning mad at myself, because… HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN to include these other pies? Especially when this one in particular is by my friend Kee Kee (see quote above). She made her husband Eric a cherry pie for his birthday a few weeks ago. Eric is Eric Troyer, the supremely talented musician who so generously wrote the “Ms. American Pie” theme song for my pie videos!  (Eric is a former member of ELO, now in the band called The Orchestra.)

Yoda, by the way, is Kee Kee’s late dog. She made a “Yoda Pie” as a thank you gift to her vet after his passing and since then every pie she makes has Yoda’s name on it.

Eric not only contributed a song to my pie video series, he wrote a them song for the pandemic called “I Can’t Stop Touching My Face.” Kee Kee, a talented filmmaker, initiated the music video they made for the song, appropriately in their pajamas and bathrobes. Take another 3 minutes out of your day to watch this.  Then your face is really going to hurt from smiling. And I promise you will have this song stuck in your head for days. But it’s a good song to have stuck. And it will make you more mindful about touching your face….as in don’t!

Meanwhile in Seattle…..

My friend Dixie Wilson in Seattle has three very creative kids who, while cooped up at home, have proven just how industrious they can be. They set up a domino line that stretched the full length of the house. They wrote their own sermons for their stay-at-home Sunday church services. And they made pie!  Here is her 11-year-old daughter Madison making a banana cream pie. The pics came in just minutes after I posted the video and I was so sorry not to include them. But I realized my blog was a way to showcase them, and here they are….

And in Los Angeles….
My friend Winky’s daughter, Kay Kay, is a young musician who has been creating YouTube videos for her preschool-aged music students. She has taken her creativity a step farther by doing a pie-making video, demonstrating my key lime pie recipe. And she’s taken this effort up a hundred more notches by conducting her demo in Portuguese! She is just learning her husband’s mother tongue and, wow, am I impressed! For all the hours and hours I’ve spent studying German, Spanish, and French, there is no way I could teach a pie class in another language. Even if you don’t understand Portuguese, this is fun to watch because Kay Kay is just so dang adorable.

Kay Kay digs in to a slice!

Previous episodes:  Here’s the playlist on YouTube

Please follow me on my social media pages:

And subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Lastly, continue sending me pictures of your finished pies!!! I will post them in my “victory shot” album on Facebook. Or who knows? Maybe I’ll have to do a second episode of your pies.

Stay Calm and Bake Pie — Episode 6: Gluten Free Strawberry Rhubarb

Because I had so many requests, I made a gluten free pie crust for this episode of “Stay Calm and Bake Pie.”

I’m no expert on gluten free baking — and I don’t need to be! That is the whole point of this series — to show you that pie does not have to be perfect to be good. People LOVE and appreciate a homemade pie, no matter how it turns out.

This pie crust is about managing your expectations. It won’t roll out smoothly and lift into your dish the way regular pie dough does. It will be sticky. It will be messy. It will break. It will look like a disaster. AND….like an ugly duckling, it will still become a gorgeous, delicious swan of a pie. I promise!

Use cookie cutters to transform your
pie into an art piece!

Gluten free flour can be hard to come by these days, so if you can’t find the GF all-purpose flour then use almond flour, or rice flour, or whatever GF flour variety you can find. The recipe is pretty much the same no matter which type of GF flour you use and it’s a simple one.

For a double-crust pie, you will need:

3 cups GF flour (plus extra for rolling dough)
1 cup butter
2 eggs
Ice water (or milk — some even use sour cream in addition to a liquid)
Salt
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
2 teaspoons Xantham Gum (I didn’t have any, but it can help bind the dough and give it elasticity)

For strawberry-rhubarb filling:

8 cups chopped fruit — combo of strawberries and rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Minute tapioca

Watch this episode to the end, because….baby goats.

 

Previous episodes:  Here’s the playlist on YouTube


Please follow me on my social media pages:

And subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Lastly, please send me pictures of your finished pies!!! I will post them in my “victory shot” album on  Facebook.

Stay Calm and Bake Pie — Episode 5: Chicken Pot Pie

In episode 5 of “Stay Calm and Bake Pie,” Doug is back by popular demand, demonstrating his culinary skills. Not sure if it’s him or my improving editing skills, but damn if he doesn’t look like a professional chef in this episode.

Also, there’s some great music in this one.  The Mike and Amy Finders Band gave us permission to use their song, “Man in the Kitchen.” It’s a PERFECT fit for Doug’s segment!  And legendary musician, Eric Troyer, of The Orchestra featuring ELO former members, wrote a pie song JUST FOR ME! There’s a short version of it playing in the intro, and the full version for the ending.

This pie lesson project has turned into a joyful labor of love. I am enjoying the learning curve of the editing process (I’m shooting with an iPad, and only using iMovie to edit. I haven’t yet advanced to Premiere or Final Cut.) It keeps my creative juices overflowing, almost as much as my chicken pot pie filling.

I especially love all the positive feedback. I am hearing over and over again, “Thank you for these videos.” You. Are. So. Welcome. Thank you for watching them!

I continue to receive photos of your finished pies — “victory shots,” I call them. Sorry I have gotten behind on posting them all to the Facebook Victory Shot album, but I’m so focused on getting the next videos made I haven’t had the time to go back and collect all the pie photos. There are so many! But I do see all of your pics and every single one of them, along with the accompanying stories, makes me swell with happiness and pride.

As for this particular pie, I confess, I had not made a chicken pot pie in years, so my skills were rusty on this one. And because I was nervous, and thus rushing, I spilled milk all over my stove. But guess what? That pie turned out great. It was so effing delicious it went from being comfort food to un-comfortable food because we ate WAY TOO MUCH! I hesitate to mention that because I am sensitive to the fact that there are people going hungry out there due to job loss, homelessness, illness….I am aware of how privileged we are to have this abundance of food to eat. I am also aware that for all that I preach about how pie is meant to be shared I’m not giving away many pies these days. It’s not easy to get out of the house, and we live 25 minutes from town. Still….I want to be doing more to help others. I just hope that by sharing these lessons I am doing something to give back to the world.

So without further ado, here is the chicken pot pie lesson…

Next episode: GLUTEN FREE PIE!!!!

Previous episodes:  Here’s the playlist on YouTube

Please follow me on my social media pages:

And subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Stay Calm and Bake Pie — Episode 4: Key Lime

My farmer’s hands.
They not only
build strong fences,
they make good pie!

And now for something a little different in the “Stay Calm and Bake Pie” video series. Doug appears as the guest baker in this episode, making key lime pie.

There are many approaches to making pie and yet the same pie made in different ways can still turn out equally good. Doug and I, with our mismatched baking styles, are proof of that. Instead of debating it, we embrace it — and have a little fun with it in this “he said-she said” format.

Previous episodes:
Click here for my previous lessons on YouTube (apple, berry crumble, banana cream)

Next episodes:

  •  Chicken Pot Pie
  •  Gluten-free pie 
  •  Pie-in-a-Jar and other various shapes and forms 
  • Please follow me on my social media pages:

    And subscribe to my YouTube channel.

    Love, Beth

    Doug also shares some tips for what rum pairs well with the pie.

    Stay Calm and Bake Pie — Episode 3: Banana Cream Pie

    My “Stay Calm and Bake Pie” series continues with episode 3, and my dad’s favorite pie: banana cream.

    A friend pointed out, “This is the first time I’ve heard your story where you didn’t talk about how your parents met.”

    That’s true. In fact, it’s a story that has become THE story of my pie journey.

    “I was born because of banana cream pie,” I tell people in my talks. “My mom and dad had been dating 6 months when she invited my dad over for a homemade supper of tuna casserole, Jell-O salad, and banana cream pie for dessert. She knew banana cream was his favorite. He hadn’t even finished his first slice when he proposed to her. So if not for banana cream pie, I would not be here!”

    My brother Mike with his first pie!

    This video is far shorter than the first two, but it took twice as long to edit. The reason, I’m sure, is that I wanted to make it special — for my dad. It’s a kind of tribute to him. You’ll see what I mean during “The Stirring Scene.” The music that accompanies that part is DeBussy’s Clair de Lune, a song my dad used to play on the piano. You wouldn’t know the significance of that unless a) you were a family member or b) I told you. So I am telling you.

    One thing that happened since this video went live (and I admit, I am several days delayed in posting it here), is that my younger brother Mike watched it and, as a result, made his first pie. I sent the video to him merely to watch it — to see how I honored our dad. But he surprised me by replying with a text and pictures of him with the pie he made.

    After getting the news from one of my large sponsors pulling back their funding promise… I took to pie making… and felt better,” he wrote.

    I choked up with a confusing, bittersweet kind of joy, at once being proud of his accomplishment, moved to tears by the giant smile on his face, and hit with a pang of grief knowing how much our dad would have loved it.

    I miss my dad so much. But his memory lives on in this pie.

    I hope my pie lesson is helpful to you. Send me pictures of your results. I’ll post them in my “Victory Shot” photo album on Facebook.

    Meanwhile…  Stay home. Stay Calm. Keep baking. And share your pie with others who need it.

    Next episodes:

  •  Key Lime Pie 
  •  Gluten-free pie 
  •  Pie-in-a-Jar and other various shapes and forms 
  • Please follow me on my social media pages:

    And subscribe to my YouTube channel.

    Love, Beth

    Stay Calm and Bake Pie — Episode 2, Mixed Berry Crumble

    I am learning how to do the video shooting and editing on the fly — flying solo, at that. I am using Doug’s iPad to film and iMovie to edit. I’m starting to get the hang of splitting clips and splicing music. But the sound quality needs a lot of improvement. I need a wireless lavalier (clip on) microphone. I want to wait on shooting the next episode until I get the mic, but the next one is banana cream pie and Doug already bought the bananas… So to that I say, videos, like pies, are not about perfection!

    In this berry crumble episode, I think (hope) you’ll find the baking instruction useful and the farm scenery soothing. Even if you can’t hear a damn thing! Enjoy and send me pictures of your pies — and stories of who you baked them with, and shared them with.

    Someone commented on my Facebook page that all this pie is going to make us fat! I had a whole spiel about that in this episode but the footage got deleted somewhere along the way. I was blathering on about how this berry pie is “just fruit,” full of vitamins and antioxidants. I also added that while pie making is good for your heart and soul, exercise is good for your heart and body. So go for a walk or do an online dance class to balance out the eating. I don’t want to be preachy, but I do feel it’s worth mentioning.

    Next episodes:

    • Banana Cream Pie 
    • Chicken Pot Pie 
    • Key Lime Pie 
    • hopefully a gluten-free pie in there somewhere, by request. 
    • and if I keep going, then Shaker lemon, spaghetti pie, French silk, peach…the list could be a long one!

     Please follow me on my social media pages:

    And subscribe to my YouTube channel.

     Love, Beth

    Stay Calm and Bake Pie — Episode One: Apple Pie

    After two months in Tucson, I’m back on the farm in Iowa because….the virus. It feels good to be with Doug, Mali, Maybelline, Chaps (our lone surviving goat), and I even brought Peanut the Foster Dog along, though she is no longer a foster, she has been adopted as a permanent family member. And for a little chihuahua she is adapting very well to farm life. Dogs LOVE Camp Doug!

    To keep myself busy — and to contribute something positive to the world during this most challenging time — I am offering FREE PIE CLASSES, though in the form of homemade videos. I am shooting these myself with Doug’s iPad. It’s not as hard as I thought. In fact, it’s been fun, and best of all it is taking my mind completely off the news!

    This will give you something to do while you’re #STAYINGHOME. And I’ve kept my language family friendly so you can do my pie classes with your kids. ENJOY! And stay healthy!

     

    Next episodes will be:

    • Mixed Berry Crumble Pie
    • Chicken Pot Pie 
    • Banana Cream Pie 
    • Key Lime Pie 
    • …and hopefully a gluten-free pie in there somewhere, by request. 

     Please follow me on my social media pages:

    And subscribe to my YouTube channel.

     Love, Beth

    Bread Making Class: When the Teacher Becomes the Student

    The Pie Lady goes to bread school.

    On Saturday I took an artisanal bread making class. I have been teaching baking classes for the past 11 years, not the student of them. But I believe in continuing education, in stretching, growing and expanding. I hunger for new information, crave new ideas and skills, and I’m always up for a new challenge.

    Bread is that new challenge.

    I’ve made bread before, but I could never get it to rise and, after it baked, it bore a texture and weight—and taste—closer to that of a cinder block than a loaf of edible leavened ground wheat. I may not live in the culinary capital of the world—Southeast Iowa fare (like pork tenderloin sandwiches the size of a dinner plate, Jell-o salad topped with mini marshmallows, and white dinner rolls slathered in margarine) is not exactly refined and sophisticated cuisine—but what SE Iowa does have is The Villages Folk School.

    The Magic Chef oven, built in 1935, really is magic.

    Villages Folk School, according to its website, specializes in providing learning experiences in traditional arts and skills, while drawing upon the uniqueness of each of the 11 historic Villages of Van Buren County Iowa. Classes are held in peaceful rural settings so students can return to a simpler time and witness the importance of the artisan in village life.

    Try finding that in New York or L.A.! Sign me up!

    The bread class was held in the village of Bentonsport, the definition of a peaceful and rural setting. In fact, to wind down the road into this sleepy hollow nestled on the banks of the Des Moines River is an exercise in time travel—back to the “simpler time” of the 1800s. The well-preserved village (with a population of 40) consists of the haunted Mason House Inn, a blacksmith and pottery shop called Iron and Lace, a Native American artifact museum (with an impressive arrowhead collection collected and curated by an eccentric resident who travels by bike), a fudge shop, a kayak rental concession, and a campground. Of note is its bridge that spans the river—built in 1883 for wagons to cross (that’s before the invention of cars!) It’s now a footbridge. The nearest stoplight might be at least 30 miles away.

    This is what peaceful and rural looks like.

    Bentonsport resident Betty Printy—also a potter, weaver, and gardener—was our bread instructor who hosted the class in her home, an historic two-story brick and beam house built in 1869. Stepping through her doorway was to enter another world, indeed a simpler one—and safer one. Surrounded by Betty’s antiques—from her 1935 Magic Chef white enamel gas range to her ceramic butter churns and rooster figures to her cuckoo clock—and enveloped in the sweet fumes of her scented candles, I wanted to spend more time here than the four hours allotted for the class. I wanted to move in! Except that I knew from having met Betty before that she had bull snakes living in her basement, in her laundry room, just like I did when I lived in the American Gothic House. Uh, no thanks. Been there, done that.

    Betty’s house.

    I didn’t bring up the subject of snakes during class. But we did discuss her numerous aquariums that lined her living room walls. The tanks were packed with fish, inhabitants that far outnumbered the people in Bentonsport. The aquariums, she told us, were the winter home to the convict fish, black sharks, eels, and goldfish that spent the rest of the year living in the ponds situated in the village rose garden. She was caretaker to all. She tried to pawn off some of the guppies on us—they were reproducing by the hundreds—but got no takers.

    Mixing ingredients in a variety of vessels.

    Betty is tall and slender with strong cheekbones and waist-length hair twisted up into a knot at the nape of her neck. Dressed in a baggy white blouse and even baggier khakis, her demeanor was as easy and relaxed as her clothes. She greeted us with her warmth and her smile. “Us” was five participants, all women, all eager to learn this new (ancient) skill.

    I always talk about how pie originated in Roman times, how the crust was used to preserve and transport meat. But bread has been around even longer than pie—a lot longer, like even before the invention of language or electricity, before civilization. Prehistoric mankind started eating bread 30,000 years ago! (You think it’s hard imagining a 135-year-old iron bridge made for covered wagon river crossings, try wrapping your head around that number!) And now, here we were, in the Dark Year of 2018, the era of divisive politics, tribalism and social media trolls, questionable news sources and reality TV and talk of building 20 billion dollar border walls: five women (of indeterminate and undisclosed political leanings) gathered together to make— and—break bread.

    Like I said, I am used to teaching baking classes. But I was a good little student, a well-behaved participant, inquisitive without being too disruptive, curious and interested. I was there to learn.

    This razorblade is a lame,
    to score the top of the bread.

    And I had a lot to learn.

    – About the basic ingredients. (flour, water, sourdough starter, salt, yeast, molasses, olive oil, egg, wheat berries)

    – About parchment paper and bread whisks and lames and other necessary tools.

    – About sourdough starters — and the care and feeding of them. (Still confounding to me!)

    – About the various ways and vessels to use for mixing dough. (Kitchen Aid mixers, bread machines, pots, bowls, stirring by hand.)

    – About the numerous steps of preparation. (Let’s just say bread seems more complex and temperamental than pie.)

    My friend Lisa adds
    jalapeños & cheese to hers.

    – About the patience required in waiting for the dough to rise—several times. (Patience is not my strong suit.)

    – About extra ingredients added to create varieties of breads. (This is where it gets fun—olives, raisins, cinnamon, sundried tomatoes, cheese, garlic, rosemary, the possibilities are endless. Kind of like how you can put “just about anything” in a pie crust, so it goes with bread, though I have yet to test the limitations of this.)

    – About scoring the top of the loaf before baking. (Like vent holes in a pie, the gashes relieve the pressure from steam building up as it bakes.)

    Shaping the loaf.

    – About Dutch ovens and clay cloches and baking stones and how they create the steam necessary to get a crusty outer edge. (You can drop some big cash on this stuff, or you can just remember that the pioneers—hell, the cavemen—made bread without any accoutrements. Even today, the Tuareg nomads in the Sahara Desert still bake their bread right in the sand.)

    – About baking times and using thermometers to test oven temps and doneness. (As I always tell my pie students, “Never trust your oven. You have to stay vigilant during baking process.” Betty told us the same thing.)

    Homework. Get cozy on the couch and curl up with a good book.

    Like I do for my pie classes, Betty had a long table set up for us to use as a workspace. She had all her equipment and baking tools at the ready. And she walked us through the process, step by step, each of us making our own dough, forming our own loaves, creating our own personal signatures through the addition of extra ingredients and the scoring patterns on top. She had loaves of fresh baked bread for us to sample as we waited for the dough to rise the first time. She had a library of bread cookbooks to look through as we waited for the dough to rise the second time. She served glasses of super-antioxidant berry juice (homemade from her backyard blackberry, raspberry, aronia berry patches) as we waited for the bread to bake.

    Snack time!

    Her hospitality made the class so comfortable, but it was her baking methods that especially put me at ease as they echoed my own philosophy. Namely, she didn’t measure precisely.

    “Go by feel,” she said as she dug her measuring cup into the flour jar and didn’t level it off or poured molasses out of the bottle letting it flow over the edges of the spoon, or showed us how to feed our sourdough starter adding “some” water as an approximation.

    “Your ingredients will vary,” she said, “and sometimes you will need more flour, sometimes less. You have to touch the dough and feel it. If it’s sticky, add more flour.”

    Yes! That is how I roll. Maybe I would be able to finally make an edible batard or baguette, ciabatta or pizza crust.

    The Victory Shot.

    The four-hour class ended with a victory shot. Instead of taking pictures of my pie students, capturing their beaming smiles of pride as they stood behind their freshly baked beauties, it was me in the shot this time standing behind my spectacular (if I may say so myself) golden brown boule of wheatberry sourdough, smiling with pride. I was even saying the very thing I loved hearing my own students say, the thing that makes the teaching so fulfilling, the thing that must have made Betty feel good about her efforts. I said—we all said, “I can’t believe I made this!”

    Steaming and fragrant, the yeasty scent wafted up in my nostrils. I was tormented with desire, desperate to rip off a hunk and shove it right into my salivating mouth. I managed to maintain my manners and waited until I got home to indulge. (Anyway, I had eaten several slices of Betty’s bread during the class so I wasn’t exactly starving.)

    Ta da! Mine is the one bottom right.
    Betty checks with her thermometer
     to see if the bread is done (at 208 degrees.)

    My bread….Oh. My. God. My bread was so fucking excellent, so moist and tender and chewy and perfect I decided to make more the next morning. Betty had given us each our own jar of sourdough starter to take home and I wanted to practice while the steps were still fresh in my head. I wanted the process to take hold, to imprint in my brain and live in my muscle memory the way pie has, to the point where if I lost my vision and my hearing I would still be able to make a damn fine pie. I was determined to achieve the same comfort/skill level with this newfound passion for bread.

    I was not so lucky at home, unsupervised without Betty’s gentle guidance and instant answers to my questions, like, “Is it okay to use a packet of yeast that’s six months past its expiration date?” I stepped through each stage—setting and resetting the timer on my iPhone, running downstairs every 30 minutes to “stretch and fold” the dough, transfer the dough to another bowl to rise some more, preheat the oven to 430 degrees, and finally tuck my baby into a cast iron Dutch oven for baking. My dough did not double in size. Was the room too cold? Was it because of the expired yeast? I did not have parchment paper so I used the “other” method of lining my Dutch oven with cornmeal. The oven smoked so much while the bread baked that the smoke alarm went off and sent the dogs into a panic. I had to open the doors to air out the house, and because it was a 25-degree winter day, the smoke was replaced with a stinging icy breeze.

    My first solo-run bread, while half the size of the loaf I produced in class, wasn’t a total disaster. It was edible and, given I had stuffed it with cinnamon, raisins and brown sugar, it was still pretty delicious.

    I always preach to my pie students, “Pie is not about perfection! It should look homemade!” As I scrutinized my loaf, I had to preach to myself that bread is not about perfection either. This misshapen lump, a little too dark on top, the scoring lines ripped apart like broken skin, was definitely not perfect. But it qualified as looking homemade and I’d take homemade any day.

    I am not deterred. I will keep practicing. I will keep experimenting with ingredients, techniques and tools. I will buy some fresh yeast. And I will remember that if the cavemen could make bread, so can I. And who knows, maybe someday I will get good enough at this I will be able to teach bread making. Regardless, I never want to stop learning, stretching and growing, and am already wondering what other classes I can take. Luckily the Villages Folk School has a long list to choose from.

    Summer Fun: Pop-Up Pie Stand and Pie Classes

    Big news! I’m doing a Pitchfork Pie Stand Pop-Up on August 27.

    It’s at Sip Coffee and Wine Bar, located at 120 South Main Street, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, on Saturday, August 27, from 12 to 4PM.

    Sip is right on the town square of this quaint and tidy little town at the intersection of Highway 34 and Highway 218 (Avenue of the Saints), about 40 minutes east of the American Gothic House where I ran my original Pitchfork Pie Stand.

    We’ll have large pies, mini pies, and pie by the slice. And because we’re at a coffee house we will have coffee!  The best espresso for miles around. Please come!

    We recommend reserving a pie in advance, so please go to my CONTACT PAGE to reach me.

    And in more big news, I am offering pie classes again!

    WELCOME TO CAMP DOUGH

    We have finally finished renovating the kitchen (and bathroom) at Camp Doug — AKA Camp Dough — and we are ready to break in that big, beautiful new oven.  Classes on the schedule so far are Saturday, August 20 and Saturday, September 17.

    For more details and to register, please go to my PIE CLASS page on my website.

    PS: You can read about our Camp Doug renovation in my article on Country Living magazine’s website. “10 Things I Learned From Renovating a Farmhouse (Without Destroying my Relationship.”

    Another happy bunch of pie bakers!

    I’m looking forward to getting back to work — and
    to getting my arms back in shape!

    World Piece: Two Weeks in Switzerland

    I left off with my blogging (and again, my apologies for not keeping up with it!) in Switzerland, where I arrived on July 29. I landed in the country’s capital of Bern, depleted from a debilitating stomach bug I picked up somewhere between Lebanon and Greece, and stayed with my lifelong friend Uschi Kamer for two weeks. We called her apartment “Kurhaus Kamer” as it really did serve like a true Kurhaus, a medical-spa-like place to recuperate.

    Once I got rested enough, I boosted my immune system with exercise, biking around the medieval cobblestoned city, hiking up the Gurten Mountain (2800 ft above sea level) behind Uschi’s apartment to view the Alps, and –my favorite– swimming in the glacial waters of the Aare River, bobbing downstream at a pace faster than a bicycle, only to climb out, walk back upstream, and float down again.

    The magical glacial waters of the Aare River.
    Swimming in this river is not for sissies!

    After I weaned myself off my restricted diet of boiled white rice and Gatorade, we ate healthy homemade meals with staples that included Gruyere cheese, chocolate, red wine and apple pie.

    The pies of Switzerland. So many choices, so little time.

    Looking toward France.

    We made some day trips to the countryside, to the Jura region on the French border, where we toured castles and cheese factories, lunched on trout, and practiced our French. Tout va bien! We made apple pie at Uschi’s family cabin and invited other family members up to share it.

    Uschi’s mom made a Schlafrockaepfel.  An apple stuffed with sugar & nuts
    and baked in a “bathrobe.” This was the most-viewed Facebook post on my trip.

    We made a banana cream pie and took the bike to the train to the bus to the Land Rover to get to Uschi’s friend Monika’s farmhouse where we ate it with lunch. At the farm we got to meet Monika’s animal kingdom, tallying up the count to about 24 between the 3 sheep (freshly sheered by Monika to spin the wool and knit sweaters, of course), 4 new baby goats, cats, dogs, chickens, and turtles. We worked off the pie — and Monika’s homemade apple-hazelnut cake — by hiking up a boulder-strewn river bed.

    Swiss Gothic.
    Lunch in the mountains was a cultural exchange:
    Uschi, Monika, Monika’s mom, with American pie…and Swiss cake.

    In between all the outdoor adventures, I took in plenty of Bern’s cultural offerings. Uschi and I spent an evening watching jugglers, musicians, acrobats and other street performers at the Buskers Festivals.

    Then I went to a free outdoor concert with another friend, Bobi, and we bumped into an acquaintance of hers, an older woman named Susanne. When I told Susanne I was currently on a round-the-world trip she said, “Oh, I did that. For my 70th birthday.” Just when I was thinking I had overestimated my strength and stamina, wishing I had done this big trip in my 20s or 30s and not at 53, along comes this beaming ray of light who I am convinced was placed in my path to remind me: You are NEVER too old. It is NEVER too late. Get out there and do it. Keep going.

    It was the message I needed to hear at exactly that time, because after being so ill, as well as drained from hauling my 50-pound beast of a suitcase from country to country, I was contemplating cutting my trip short. But Susanne’s positive energy gave me the impetus to keep going.

    This is the world traveler Susanne. She doesn’t look over 70. She doesn’t even look over 50!

    I needed all the motivation I could get, as my next stop was Germany, the place I had been anticipating with a quiet dread. It was the place where my late husband was from, the place we had lived together, the place I had not been back to since his funeral six years earlier. But Marcus’s frequent flyer miles had made my round-the-world trip possible. And I was determined to honor him. And so….I booked my train ticket, left the peace and beauty and healing place of Bern behind and headed north to Deutschland.

    Continued in the next post….

    RETURN TO THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PIE WEBSITE