Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pie #9 - An Ode to Mothers-in-Law


Jokes about mothers-in-law abound, but you won't find any here, because frankly, I have the very best one.

Her name is Anne and I am so grateful to have her in my life. She loves me like the third daughter she never had, and I have to say, I sort of like her, too. 

So, let's raise a pie to mothers-in-law...those lovely souls who take us in and tolerate us because we married one of their children. If you're lucky and you win the mother-in-law lottery, they just might come to be as treasured as a second mother. (Color me lucky.)

Anne - with Hubbard Avenue Diner's Blackberry Sour Cream Pie

P.S. Oh, yes, I'd forgotten. 

Actually, there is sort of a running joke in the family about Anne. Stay a weekend with her and you'll discover when you step on the scale back home, you've added a few pounds, thanks to her delicious cooking! (No fake butter here, people.)

Just this morning for breakfast she fed me two eggs, three sausage links, a mound of hash browns, and two pieces of toast. As I waddled away from the table a little later, I suggested my day might be better spent chopping a cord of wood rather than plunking down in front of a computer.

We've learned to just wait a few days before climbing on the scale. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Pie #8 - It was Cherry and it Broke my Heart


It's been over a month since I delivered a pie. In fact, I remember the date well. It was Tuesday, June 17.

My friend, Cindy, had requested a cherry pie, which wasn't actually her favorite flavor. Turns out, she'd selflessly asked me to bring her husband Mike's favorite. 

Because that was Cindy. She always gave of herself, whether it was to her husband, her girls, her family, her friends or her 1st graders. In fact, the photo below shows exactly the kind of loving, nurturing teacher and human being Cindy was.
Cindy & my daughter, Hannah (then a 1st grader in 2006)

Yes, I used the word "was." 

Yesterday, we said goodbye to Cindy at a lovely funeral service. In December, she'd been diagnosed with brain cancer, and she passed away far too soon on Saturday, July 26.

In sad times such as these, the phrase "they left the world a better place" is bandied about far too often. 

But in Cindy's case it, the phrase fits perfectly. My now teenage daughter is a better student from having learned from her in 1st grade. I also know that I am a better person for having known her and called her friend. The church yesterday was filled with many who could claim the same. 

The pie delivery visit was the last time I saw my friend. And, while I believe pie can bring happiness and perhaps, sometimes change the world, too, it just can't fix grief.

I miss her so.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pie #7 - Renaye Leach of Playtime Productions Children's Theatre


This week's Pie-It-Forward pie recipient was Renaye Leach, Managing/Artistic Director of Playtime Productions Children's Theatre

Renaye Leach of Playtime Productions Children's Theatre


From the website, "For almost three decades, Playtime Productions Children's Theatre has been delighting audiences with its creative and spirited renditions of classic tales." If you've never been to a performance, make it a point to bring your family this fall's show. The yet-to-be-announced play will be performed in 16 venues in Dane County. Keep an eye out for the schedule here. Have a child who'd like to audition? Auditions will take place on a date in early September. (Information also available on the website.)

My own daughter was involved in Playtime from 2010 to 2013 which equates to 7 plays.
Hannah Nies - Sleeping Beauty Vine (2010) to Madame Pandora in The Red Shoes (2013).

I wrote this piece - "What Theatre Gives to a Kid" - back in November 2012. I think it describes how much Playtime has meant to our family.

What Theatre Gives a Kid
Even though some of the “good stuff” that Hannah has gained through the Playtime experience is impossible to measure, here are some things that I do know.
  • Being the “new kid,” Hannah learned that even in tight-knit groups, she could find her place and make new friends.
  • She became part of a team, and part of something bigger than herself.  Hannah now understands the expression of “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” No matter how many lines someone may have in a play, no part is more important than the others.
  • She has learned how to take care of, and be responsible for, two complete costumes and many accessories. Additionally, she learned how to handle two different roles within the same play, which required a wardrobe and a  make-up change.
  • The #1 fear of most adults is public speaking, and I am delighted to say that while Hannah has never had this issue, she learned to turn up the volume on her voice, and how to better enunciate her lines.
  • My daughter, who can be a people-pleasing perfectionist, has learned that mistakes can, and do happen, but the show must go on. Literally, I mean! She absorbed this adage when her fairy hat was knocked off on stage once, and a few other times, when she was introduced incorrectly as the wrong fairy. She learned to handle these challenges with grace and serenity.
  • She learned she loves talking to small children and giving autographs after the show!
  • Hannah received valuable instruction in dancing and singing. Often a soloist in the past, she learned how to blend her voice with other singers, and found out that it’s not always important to be the loudest.
  • She discovered that, as in real life, there’s a lot of “down time” and waiting, during play practice. While others ran their lines and practiced on stage, she found activities to amuse herself. She learned how to "be bored" and how to daydream.
  • Hannah  discovered what it means to make a commitment. Once she accepted the part of Violet, her practice schedule began immediately. Sometimes she had to give up other fun activities or time with her friends, in order to work on the play. She also knew she might have to be on stage when she didn’t feel 100% well. Commitment, whether it’s to play practice or later on to a spouse or a career, is another amazing life lesson that’s impossible to quantify.
  • Perhaps, most importantly, Hannah learned the fine art of being able to take constructive criticism, which is an ability that some adults have still not mastered. My daughter, who used to be incredibly (overly) sensitive, has now developed what Renaye would refer to as a “thick skin.” Being able to take direction, whether it’s from a play director or a future boss, is a necessary life skill.
I’ve probably missed some of the “good stuff” that my daughter has received from participating in Playtime Productions, but I believe that the benefits will continue to be revealed in the coming years.

I would recommend this experience to any theatre-loving child. I would recommend PTP to any parent who is looking to give their child a leg up in gaining these skills: responsibility, self-confidence, and maturity.

And, oh by the way, Hannah would add, “It’s so FUN, too!”
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Thank you to Renaye and the incredible staff for the life lessons you've instilled in my daughter. Your influence is immeasurable and long-lasting and wonderul.

Thank you, as always, to Hubbard Avenue Diner for providing this week's pie, Duo of Silks.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Pie #6 - Ken Lonnquist performs Pi Pie Song!


I took a week off from pie gifting. While I was thinking about who was pie-worthy, I had a meeting request from my friend - and famed local songwriter/entertainer/funny guy - Ken Lonnquist.

Voila! The perfect opportunity to combine pie with a man who has written or performed several pie songs. It seems our friendship was just meant to be as he wrote a song entitled "Pi Pie!"

Ken and his music have been a staple in my family's life ever since my daughter was a tot long ago and we discovered his children's music and concerts. Ken isn't limited to just little kids' entertainment though, as he also performed at my 40th birthday party, as well as my daughter's intermediate school.

Ken is a gifted musician and a funny entertainer who brings joy to so many, making him entirely worthy of pie. So yesterday, I brought along a cherry pie, while Ken brought along his ukelele and performed the chorus of "Pi Pie" on the spot! Enjoy!


Ken chose Hubbard Avenue Diner's Cherry Pie.

Ken & The Whateverlys cover Bob Dylan's "Country Pie."

Ken performs in clubs, coffeehouses, schools, colleges, churches, libraries and nature centers. He is available for booking here. Individual songs and/or CDs are available for purchase at his Marketplace website


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pie #5 - Listen to Your Mother's Ann Imig

Mother's Day is this Sunday. 

Do you have a gift for Mom yet? If not, I have the perfect suggestion. Take her to see the Listen to Your Mother Show at 3 pm this Sunday, May 11th at the Barrymore Theatre. You'll not only give Mom the pleasure of your company, but she'll get to see great live readings by local writers, too! (ENTER for a chance to win 2 tickets below.)

What is Listen to Your Mother anyway? According to the show's website, "Listen to Your Mother features live readings by local writers on the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested of motherhood, in celebration of Mother’s Day. Born of the creative work of mothers who publish on-line, each production is directed, produced, and performed by local communities, for local communities."

The first Listen to Your Mother show was held in Madison in 2010. It was a huge hit! With this success, the show then expanded to other cities as follows: 5 shows in 2011, 10 shows in 2012, 24 shows in 2013 and 32(!) shows in 2014.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to chat a bit with Ann Imig, National Director of Listen to Your Mother - and this week's pie recipient. As you may have guessed, at this time of the year, she has a lot on her plate (besides pie). 
Ann Imig - National Director of Listen to Your Mother
with Strawberry Rhubarb pie from Hubbard Avenue Diner


I asked Ann to tell me in five words why people should attend Listen to Your Mother, and she answered, "Validation. Celebration. Laughter. Community. Mom."

Along with 12 other women who will read original pieces, Ann will emcee and read her work entitled, "The Children Ate My Gratitude." (P.S. It's hilarious and heart-warming.) 

Come to the show. As someone who's been in the cast once, and in the audience twice, I know what I'm talking about...You won't be disappointed.  Buy tickets here. 10% of Madison ticket proceeds and additional fundraising at the event will benefit the Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center.

WIN!
Ann has generously donated a pair of tickets to this Sunday's show. If you'd like to enter for a chance to win, please leave a Mom-related comment on this blog post. A random entry will be selected from all entries received by Noon on Friday, 5/9.
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Still on the fence? Here are two sample Listen to Your Mother pieces from years past. 

Me - 2011 Listen to Your Mother Show - Madison



My daughter's rebuttal piece in 2012.



Need more? Here are 500+ Listen to Your Mother videosThank you, Ann, in so many, many ways.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Pie #4 - The Family Glue


If you're lucky, there's one in your family. You know the one. The one who is the glue - the stick 'um - the arranger of family gatherings, the birthday card mailer, the you-rah-rah cheerleader of all. The one, who if they did not exist, the entire family would probably drift away from one another.

In my family, her name is Aunt LeAnn or Aunt "Lan" to those who were unable to pronounce her name correctly as tots. She is one of my Dad's sisters, but in many ways, she's been like the sister I've never had.

Aunt LeAnn - with Banana Cream Pie

Only nine years separate us in age, so when I was little my Grandpa used to make her play with me. LeAnn scoffs when I mention it, and replies, "I wanted to play with you." And, I believe she did. We played Barbies, read books, and rode horses. In fact, those times are some of the best memories of my childhood.

To thank her for all she has been to me through the years, I was delighted to select her as this week's pie recipient. Fittingly, her birthday was also this week.

And, just like her Mom, she'll forever remain 29, but she has the energy and the zest for life to go along with her make-believe age. She's the first in any group to exclaim, "Let's Go!" or "Yes, let's do it!", usually along with one of her hearty, boisterous, unfiltered laughs. Her friends would tell you LeAnn's the kind of person you want to be near. In addition to being a supportive, fun-loving friend, she's also a fiercely-loving wife, Mama and GMomma who enjoys her family, above all else.

For your love, your support and your kindnesses, thank you Aunt LeAnn.
If Pie = Love, then Love = You.

To readers: Don't forget to thank the person who serves as your family's glue.

PIE PEEK: Mother's Day is nearly here, so it seems only fitting that the next pie post will feature Ann Imig, National Director of the Listen To Your Mother Show. Be there!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pie #3 - Make Me Laugh, Funny Man


Today's pie recipient is a gentlemen I've met just six or seven times, but he's the type of person you don't forget because he brings laughter and joy to all those around him.

His name is Kenny Gilbertson and he owns Gilbertson's General Store in Keyeser, WI. 

Keyeser has become a mandatory stop for me following a morning of shopping in "Amish Land." The town (and I use that word loosely) is unincorporated and invisible to most. It's located just northeast of DeForest and slightly past the Dane County line.  Since your GPS may not locate it, Keyeser's main street is located at the junction of C & DM.

There are two businesses in this one-eighth-horse town: a church and Gilbertson's General Store. Gilbertson's has served Keyeser and beyond since 1894. As a side note, it's "famously" home to the Keyeser Indians - there are t-shirts for sale - but I'm not exactly sure what that means. 



The General Store has a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, but the main draw is at the back of the store. There you will find a small bar, five bar stools, jars of pickled things, and very reasonably priced beer. Pull up a seat, sit a spell and if you're lucky, Kenny is tending bar on your visit.

Kenny Gilbertson - It seemed fitting to use the sepia-toned photo.
Kenny - with Hubbard's Banana Cream Pie

It's kind of difficult to describe Kenny without resorting to words like "adorable" and "elfin," but alas, those adjectives seem to fit. In addition, he's a dapper dresser with quick wit and wink, to boot.

If asked, he'll proudly tell you about his strong Norwegian heritage and about the four generations of Gilbertsons who have owned and run the store. Kenny loves a good story which he'll deliver to you in deadpan Steven Wright fashion. He loves to talk and make people laugh. 

While you're listening and enjoying your beer, be sure to take a gander at all of the interesting pictures and quotes hanging on the bar's walls. Do beware of the F-Word jar. Tossing an F-bomb here will set you back a dollar per instance.

I chose Kenny for Pie #3 because he was happy long before Pharrell Williams made it famous. He makes people feel good and important. And, really, how can you resist someone with a contagious laugh ending with "Aye-Yie-Yie!!"

Thank you for being you, Kenny Gilbertson!

NOTE: Kenny was delighted to receive his favorite flavor of pie from Hubbard Avenue Dinner. It's rumored he elected not to share with his fellow card players following delivery. 

If you'd like to visit Keyeser, here's a great upcoming event to check out:

Cruise to Keyeser
The annual auto/tractor/motorcycle show is scheduled for Saturday, June 28th, 10 am to 4 pm. Bring lawn chairs to view the pre-1979 classic cars, tractors and motorcycles on display. This year's show is expected to have 1,000 visitors! A food tent will be available, and Sassy Cow will be selling their delicious ice cream
Also available - the Gilbertson's Store's outhouses.