Mindfulness Challenge Day 11 Haiku -- Community

Today's haiku was composed while attending a brunch for scholarship donors and scholarship recipients in our town of Concord MA. Wonderful connections were made between the generations, the givers and the receivers; the recognition that we are all both the givers and receivers. This is what makes a community.


Grateful for our town 
Embracing community
Givers, receivers

Concord Grape Pie....An Adventure in Kitchen Meditation

Stemmed Concord grapes
As many of you know, I live in Concord, Massachusetts....home of the shot heard' 'round the world, literary luminaries (Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, etc), and the Concord grape. When we moved to our current house, less than a mile from Ephraim Bull's (the original propagator of the Concord grape) cottage our then 2nd grade daughter begged us to plant some grape vines on our fence.  For many years, the harvest was to be generous... pitiful.  Maybe a handful of grapes would be gathered if we were lucky.  Well, time and patience has finally paid off...this year we had a bumper crop of Concord grapes.  Two grocery bags full are on my kitchen counter! And that 2nd grade daughter who begged for the grape vines on the fence, is now a 2nd grade teacher (as I said, time and patience are key to growing grapes).

A couple of years ago, when our vines started to produce more than a handful of grapes a season, I searched for something unique to do with the grapes and came across a recipe for Concord Grape Pie online.  Serendipitously, it was posted on a site called PieChef.com and the "pie chef" was none other than a Concord friend of mine, Jane Fisher.

Separating the skin from the pulp of the Concord grapes
Partaking in baking with Concord grapes is a mindful experience -- they are bountiful for only a short time each year in the beginning of September.  They do not ship well, so are not often found in bulk in grocery stores nationwide. To make a pie from Concord grapes, one must first stem the grapes, then separate the inside from the skin, and finally remove the seeds.  While this may sound like an arduous process, it is actually simple, repetitive, filled with touch, sight, smell, taste, sound and becomes what I fondly refer to as "kitchen meditation".

So it is with mindful gratitude to Jane Fisher that I share this recipe for:

Concord Grape Pie

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

9" unbaked pie crust (double crust or single crust with crumb topping)
About 1.5 pounds (4 cups) Concord grapes
3/4 - 1 cup sugar (I use 3/4 c)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 TB butter melted
1 TB lemon juice

(I usually make a double crust pie, but if you prefer a crumb topping, follow the recipe below )
Crumb topping
1/2 cup quick or rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter melted

Remove grapes from stems. Slip skins from grapes (it's easy to do, just squeeze gently and the skin will separate from the pulp), placing the pulp in a medium saucepan and reserving the skins in a bowl. Bring the pulp to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. The pulp will soften and get lighter in color.

Press the pulp through a sieve into a medium bowl; this will remove the seeds. Add the skins to the pulp. Melt butter and add butter and lemon juice to grape mixture.
Concord Grape Pie

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Add the grape mixture and stir well. Pour into an unbaked pie crust and either cover with a crust or sprinkle crumb topping over the top of the pie.

Bake at 400° F for about 40 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and topping is lightly browned.
Concord Grape Pie


Engage with Grace this Thanksgiving

For the past few years I have joined in the annual Thanksgiving blog rally, Engage with Grace: One Slide Project. This year, however, Engage with Grace holds special meaning and remembrance for me.  

On November 21, our community of Concord, Massachusetts lost an incredible teacher and mentor, David Prifti.  David, a gifted artist who taught photography at Concord-Carlisle High School, had the unique quality of connecting with each student to make them feel like they were the most amazing, talented kid in the world.  But more than that, David taught his students how to navigate life with grace, dignity, hope and humor.  

During the past two and a half years, as David lived with the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, he allowed us all to become his students as he shared his journey through his widely read blog, Prifti News. Last month he shared with his blog readers his decision to enter hospice care and determine as best he could that the end of his life would be filled with the same beauty, grace and gentleness that had always been central to his life. One of the many gifts that David left with us is the recognition of the importance of communicating with others, expressing our wishes for the end of life.  

And so, this Thanksgiving, I dedicate my participation in Engage with Grace to David Prifti, in gratitude for teaching us all the meaning of grace, hope and peace.  

May your Thanksgiving be filled with mindful moments and shared conversations with those you love.

Engage with Grace 2011: Occupy With Grace

Once again, this Thanksgiving we are grateful to all the people who keep this mission alive day after day: to ensure that each and every one of us understands, communicates, and has honored their end of life wishes.

Seems almost more fitting than usual this year – the year of making change happen. 2011 gave us the Arab Spring – people on the ground using social media to organize a real political revolution. And now – love it or hate it – it’s the Occupy Wall Street movement that’s got people talking.

Smart people (like our good friend Susannah Fox) have made the point that unlike those political and economic movements, our mission isn’t an issue we need to raise our fists about…it’s an issue we have the luxury of being able to hold hands about.
It’s a mission that’s driven by all the personal stories we’ve heard of people who’ve seen their loved ones suffer unnecessarily at the end of their lives.
It’s driven by that ripping-off-the-band-aid feeling of relief you get when you’ve finally broached the subject of end of life wishes with your family, free from the burden of just not knowing what they’d want for themselves, and knowing you could advocate for these wishes if your loved one weren’t able to speak up for themselves.
And it’s driven by knowing that this is a conversation that needs to happen early, and often. One of the greatest gifts you can give the ones you love is making sure you’re all on the same page. In the words of the amazing Atul Gawande – you only die once! Die the way you want. Make sure your loved ones get that same gift. And there is a way to engage in this topic with grace…

Here are the five questions – read them, consider them, answer them (you can securely save your answers the Engage with Grace site, www.engagewithgrace.org), share your answers with your loved ones. It doesn’t matter what your answers are, it just matters that you know them for yourself, and for your loved ones. And they for you.

We all know the power of a group that decides to assemble. In fact, we recently spent an amazing couple days with the members of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care -- or C-TAC – working together to channel so much of the extraordinary work that organizations are already doing to improve the quality of care for our country’s sickest and most vulnerable.

Noted journalist Eleanor Clift gave an amazing talk – finding a way to weave humor and joy into her telling of the story she shared in this Health Affairs article. She elegantly sums up (as only she can) the reason that we have this blog rally ever y year:
For too many physicians, that conversation is hard to have, and families, too, are reluctant to initiate a discussion about what Mom or Dad might want until they’re in a crisis, which isn’t the best time to make these kinds of decisions. Ideally, that conversation should begin at the kitchen table with family members, rather than in a doctor’s office.”
It’s a conversation you need to have wherever and whenever you can – and the more people you can rope into it, the better!! Make this conversation a part of your Thanksgiving weekend – there will be a right moment – you just might not realize how right it was until you begin the conversation.

This is a time to be inspired, informed…to tackle our challenges in real, substantive, and scalable ways. Participating in this blog rally is just one small – yet huge – way that we can each keep that fire burning in our bellies, long after the turkey dinner is gone.

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season. Let’s Engage with Grace together.

In Praise of the August Tomato

Hallelujah! Tomatoes...red, yellow and green zebra...my weekly pickup at First Root Farm, our local CSA (community supported agriculture) farm in Concord, MA, yielded a rainbow of August tomatoes today. This has been a hard year for our finicky tomato friends, too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry, falling victim to fungi and hornworms; so these August jewels seemed even more precious as I carried them home.  Each year I am reminded that freshly picked August tomatoes, still warm from the sun, taste like nothing else in the world.  I sliced the tomatoes, tossed them gently with fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil and a touch of freshly ground black pepper. The epitome of a mindful moment; all five senses heightened.  I am again reminded that life is delicious.