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.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Strawberry Crumble Pie

For a change, I made a pie!

Blood spatter analysis by the local Forensics team indicates it was an am-pie-tation...Well, really it's a Strawberry Crumble pie for my favorite girl.

(Recipe courtesy: The World Needs More Pie - Beth Howard. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pie #2 - Ease The Pain

Today's post reminds me of a line from my favorite movie, "The Princess Bride."

Yeah, what a downer, huh?
But to some extent, I have to admit there's a hint of truth in it.

In fact, pain is an all-too-frequent, ubiquitous visitor in this journey called life. The only thing that seems to vary is how much - the depth of the pain - we're currently experiencing. Sometimes body parts hurt. Other times, our hearts are broken or our brains are filled with mental anguish. 

Today's pie recipients are a family who was recently involved in a life-altering, freakish accident that resulted in broken bones, concussions, and trauma of all kinds. And although it happened a few months ago, they continue to recover, both physically and emotionally.

While they are private people who wish to remain anonymous, the family was so grateful to receive a delicious Hubbard Avenue Diner pie. So, even though we don't have faces to put with this particular episode of The Year in Pie, I believe there are still some lessons to glean.

Here's what I've sussed out. When I encounter strangers who seem sad or angry or impatient, I must try not take it personally. I don't know what's going on in this person's life, and I certainly can't see their pain.

More simply stated: I don't need to know the details in order to treat them with kindness and patience. 

It bears repeating: Everyone is struggling, and to some degree, everyone is in pain. Don't think it's so? Take a little inventory of your loved ones. I did and I came away with this list:
  • A friend who is coping with her Mom's worsening dementia 
  • A family friend who has cancer
  • A young friend who is learning to walk again after experiencing temporary paralysis five months ago
  • Friends in the midst of divorces, job losses, children's crises
The list goes on and on. 

The magic wand I used to "fix" my baby's boo-boos seems to have lost its power for life's bigger "unfixable" challenges. More times than not, I find myself paralyzed and impotent with the big question of how to help my family and friends.

The $64,000 question has become, how do I help? Well, my first grade teacher always told me this, "Bloom where you are planted." I think this means I should do what I can, even if it seems small and insignificant. 

Now, I'm not naive enough to believe that pie can fix pain.

However, pie is what I am able to provide in terms of a bit of relief. Pie, in its own special way, provides its own personal message. The gift of pie humbly says, "Here. I made this for you. I made this with my own hands, and while I'm not perfect, the love baked into it is."

Today's Duo of Silks pie from Hubbard Avenue Diner was served with a side of several hugs. Be well, my friends...and just for this moment, enjoy the pie.

The Duo of Silks - A combination of Chocolate & Peanut Butter

Thursday, April 10, 2014

# 1 - The Librarians of The Waunakee Public Library

To me, the Waunakee Library is like the famed fictional bar, Cheers - sadly, without the beer - but ♫♪♫"sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came..."♫♪

They do ... and they are...

So, today I honored my first Pie It Forward recipients...the amazing Librarians of The Waunakee Public Library! Shown here are some of the librarians: Celine, Sarah, Jayne, Emily. Below: Susan, Jayne (again), Betsy.

They requested an April specialty pie from Hubbard Avenue Diner - the Apple Blueberry Cherry with double crust.

You may wonder why I chose the library and the librarians to receive the very first Pie It Forward pie?  Here's a reason in pictures:

Even more importantly, have you ever stopped to consider the value of your local library? I have. In fact, there's a calculator to determine the worth of a community library.

My family and I utilize the library A LOT. (My daughter got her own library while she was still in the womb.) In fact, the value of the library based on our use is estimated to be $11,000+ PER YEAR.

Input Your
Library Materials & ServicesValue of Your Use

120Adult Books Borrowed$2,040
240YA Books Borrowed$2,880

Childrens Books Borrowed
12Audiobooks Borrowed$119.40

Interlibrary Loan Requests
12eBooks Downloaded$180
12Magazines Read$60
12Newspapers Read$114
120Movies Borrowed$480
12CDs Borrowed$119.40

Music Downloaded

Meeting Room Use (per hour)
3Adult Program Attended$45
3Young Adult Program Attended$36

Childrens Program Attended

Museum Passes Borrowed
416Computer Use (per hour)$4,992

Database Searches

Reference Assistance


And, those are just the reasons that can be calculated. Other intangibles impossible to calculate are: 
  • Since I work from home, the library's a nice place to escape to when I need adult conversation or to work in a more business-like environment, away from the laundry and refrigerator, etc.
  • The librarians recommend books and movies and music based on past items I've checked out.
  • The overdue fines for books are 5 cents per day. 5 cents! What in the world can you get for a NICKEL these days?
  • If I have a question on where to locate certain information, the librarians steer me to an appropriate resource.
  • Here's another pictorial reason:

Thank you to librarians everywhere. And, thank you, Hubbard Avenue Diner for the pie.

Stay tuned to Episode #2 of Pie It Forward. The recipient is a young adult who was recently hospitalized with a relatively unknown disease called Lemierre's Syndrome, and has battled her way back to good health. Pie note: She has requested an apple pie.

(P.S. By the way, Waunakee is in dire need of a newer, larger library, post-haste. Let's get this done.)

Friday, April 4, 2014

It's here!

And, we're off! This arrived in today's mail from Hubbard Avenue Diner.

It occurred to me that I should introduce myself. I am Deb Nies and I live with my family in Waunakee, WI. I am a Social Media and Marketing consultant by day, and a pie lover and baker by night.

But enough about me, let us commence with the Pie It Forward project. I expect to post about my first pie beneficiary next week.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I Won a Year of Pie

In celebration of Pi Day (3/14), Hubbard Avenue Diner called for submissions of Pi-inspired pictograms for a chance to win FREE PIE for a year. In addition, they promised the winning design would be made into t-shirts.

My teen daughter and I were no stranger to pie or pi, or in fact, this particular contest. Last year, we submitted 20+ possible pi-logo creations. Alas, none made it to the final round.

This year the contest nearly slipped by unnoticed, but I was reminded again when my live-in Geometry student came home griping about about imaginary numbers, and surmising that next "We'll be studying UNICORNS!" She ranted how "i" could be the mind-boggling answer to the square root of -1. This math discussion prompted the inspiration for the PI equation above, and I submitted just the one entry this Pi season.

My entry and one another were chosen as finalists to compete for the win. For four days, I got out the vote with my Facebook friends and family. This stressful venture convinced I'd never survive running for office.

In the end, 233 votes were cast, and my design won by a mere *7* votes. (Life lesson: In every election, your vote does count!)

During the election, I already knew if I won pie for a year I wanted to do something special with my pie winnings. I'd decided to give them away to people I felt needed some happiness and sweetness in their lives. 

To me, pies have always equaled love. Three of my favorite things in the world are baking pie, sharing pie, and eating pie. In fact, my daughter often jokes, "If my mom likes you, she'll try to feed you." It's true. A bumper sticker on my car says, "Love people, Cook Them Good Food."

I have selected the first person I'm going to Pie It Forward to...stay tuned. I can't wait to share this adventure with you. 

I would be remiss if I didn't say "thank you" again to my friends and family who voted. Also, a huge THANK YOU to Hubbard Avenue Diner for sponsoring this contest. You're the best.


Pie Takes you Back in Time

“You look at a cake almost like a piece of architecture, but pies give you an emotional response. If you put a pie on a table, it always seem to take you back to a time in your life. Peach pie puts you squarely in summer, pumpkin at Thanksgiving. I think that is where the emotional response comes from.”- Ken Haedrich author of "Pie" 

Oh, pies do take me places in my mind. My first pie memories transport me back to the ubiquitous Mrs.Smith's frozen Dutch Apple pies my Mom would pull from the freezer, bake as directed and then proclaim them "homemade." (They weren't bad, but then, I didn't know any better.)

Thoughts of real homemade pie and childhood are tightly intertwined with fond memories of my grandma, Lillian. When I was little, I would gaze in wonder as she made her own pie crust from scratch. It seemed like magic to me.  Sometimes it still does.

In the summer months, she and I collected wild gooseberries to make my grandpa's favorite fruit pie. (It's not bad with the addition of several pounds of sugar.)

In recent pie memory, I can still vividly recall my first piece of bumbleberry pie enjoyed at the Purple Pie Place in Custer, SD. The first thing I did following vacation was attempt to recreate this five-fruited marvel. It is now my go-to pie recipe, especially because the uninitiated always inquire, "What's a bumbleberry?"

But alas, there's always been a pie hole in my heart. My fondest pie desire is to make a black raspberry (aka black cap) pie, but I have never had easy, ongoing access to collect the requisite four to five cups of fruit necessary to make one.

For you see, here in Wisconsin, black raspberries can't be purchased at the local grocery store; they have to be picked in the wild, along the rural highways and byways. But if you're lucky (me), you have a sweet sister-in-law who lives in a State Forest which is just rife with black raspberries! And, then she (foolishly) allows you to take home a clump and plant them in your yard...not remembering they are highly invasive.

Here's my backyard of black raspberry bushes:

This morning I harvested nearly two cups of black raspberries and I can envision a pie in my future soon.

What's the big deal about making this pie? I mean, really. The berries are not the sweetest ambrosia on the palate. Frankly, they're a bit tart even when ripe, the small seeds tend to stick in one's teeth, and they're a pain in the everywhere to pick.

Here's the thing. It's the history of the black raspberry to me. The berries, from the picking to the eating, are all wrapped up in the nostalgia of time gone by. They conjure memories of my free-range, carefree and countrified childhood existence. On black raspberry picking days, my younger brother and I spent time together without arguing, simply because we were united in a common mission.

Early in the steamy July mornings, my brother and I would climb onto our bikes to search out the elusive berry bushes along the roadside. We pedaled and pedaled, the distance and the heat didn't seem to matter. Our harvesting equipment consisted simply of lidded containers; one for him, one for me. There was no sharing.

Once we found the bushes, getting to the bounty was hard. Picture tall grass, mosquitoes, and grabbing; prickly bushes, but of course, it was well worth the effort. The first berries eaten were the sweetest, ripest, and blackest.Our second choices were the purplish-black, nearly-ripe berries. Last on the preference list were the just purple, extremely tart, difficult-to-pull-off "black" caps. Hey, we were kids; they all tasted delicious.

At the beginning of the season we'd usually just fill our bellies with eating the berries straight from the bushes. After several collection days had passed, more and more berries made it into our containers.

My brother and I often came home with the battle scars of mosquito bites, bloody scrapes, and berry-juice stains on our faces and our hands. Immediately, we'd both grab cereal bowls, spoons, the sugar dish, and a gallon of milk and head directly to our kitchen table. No words had to be spoken; it was a well-oiled and time-honored tradition.

Berries were poured,  (No, we didn't wash them. We were kids.) milk was sloshed on top, sugar was scooped (yes, they were often a bit tart), and then we'd slurp up our fruity bounty. When the berries were gone, all that remained was a lovely lavender, sugary milk concoction that begged to be drunk straight from the bowl. And, we did. And, I remember it tasted like the sweet depths of childhood summers.

Yes, pie takes you places...and I can't wait to go back there.

Pie that's Humworthy

It happened nearly twenty years ago, and I don't even recall the flavor. I just vividly remember I have never seen a person so fully enjoy a slice of pie.

With each bite of pie, my coworker closed his eyes as if to shut out the rest of the world, and in his mind, went to a quiet place where he was alone with the pie's perfection. He chewed slowly and thoroughly, and he hummed.

Yes, he hummed.

I have never seen a person so fully enjoy a slice of pie, and I have to admit, I felt a wee bit uncomfortable. His joy and satisfaction seemed a bit orgasmic, like I'd caught him in a compromising position. I wanted to ask him if he'd rather be alone with his piece of pie.

Honestly, I was rather amused, and, frankly, a little jealous. I'd never tasted hum-inducing pie.

I'd grown up, uninformed and uninitiated into the world of pastry, with Mrs. Smith's frozen boxed pies. I certainly do not recall these fake pies causing humming or exclamations of delight. Perhaps if anything, frozen pies brought forth disappointed sighs; the promised pastry land did not deliver.

I wandered through life unaware of the difference between great homemade pies and pies you could get for three bucks at the local grocery store. If there was pie, I'd have a slice, but it was never memorable or life-altering or humworthy.

But then cue family vacation to South Dakota eight years ago where in Custer, SD, we stumbled into the Purple Pie Place. Frankly, I just liked the alliterative name and purple building, and pie acquisition was secondary.

After perusing the flavors of the day signage, I had to ask the purple people about Bumbleberry Pie. They explained there is no such fruit as a "bumbleberry," but rather the pie is a bumble or conglomeration of summer fruits like apples, rhubarb, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Sign me up.

With one bite, I had a new best friend...and so did my six-year old daughter, who I had to wrestle for bite number two. As my sweet daughter enjoyed the pie slice I'd relinquished, I heard the most delightful sound; a sound that made my mom's heart do a flip-flop of wonderment.

She hummed. Loudly. After each delectable bite.

My sweet daughter was a hummer. And not just any ole' hummer. A hummer of pie. Be still my heart.
My Pie Baby

At that moment, I knew one thing. I wanted to make pies so seductively delicious they'd make people close their eyes and hum dreamily.

When I returned home, my mission was to find a bumbleberry pie recipe worthy of the slice I'd loved and lost in South Dakota.

After much googling, I did locate the perfect bumbleberry recipe, and I've made it many, many times for my now teen daughter and myself. It was hum-worthy for certain, but something was still missing.

Frankly, my pies were missing a flaky, delicious crust.

Confession time: I was a pie cheater. Instead of homemade pie crust, I used the lovely, easy, non-messy Pillsbury roll 'em out, head 'em up pie crust cheaters, and all (most) were none the wiser.

When my guilt had finally consumed me, and when I realized I needed a crust as awesome as the fillings inside, I looked for help.

Friend and author Karen Karbo convinced me I could go cold-turkey on the boxed pie crust and *easily* make my own homemade crusts. Over at least ten emails, and from afar hand-holding, she coached me through my crust neuroses and celebrated with me when my first attempts turned out "not so bad."

Once I got past my OCD tendencies, the ones causing me to over-mix the shortening and butter until the dough was completely lump-free, my crusts started turning out quite nice. Thank you, Karen, for teaching me to make pies like this double-crust Peach Pie, just removed from the oven.

Peach Pie

I must say, pie has been good to me. Not only is it the most delicious, self-contained dessert ever, pie has also led me to some great friends.

In case you don't know, pie people tend to be damn fine people. Besides Karen, pie led me to my friend, Kristin, who helps me spearhead the Monona Pie Party. (Saturday, September 28, 2013) We're fairly formidable pie connoisseurs and bakers.

Pie has also led me to wonderful people like Beth Howard who sells pies from the Pitchfork Pie Stand located in front of the American Gothic House. She's selling these amazing Pie t-shirts on her The World Needs More Pie Facebook page.

I'm getting one, and I feel proud I can now "Make my Own D*mn Pie!"