By Marcia Pilgeram
This October was one for the record books. I don’t remember the fall foliage ever being more beautifully ablaze. It’s exactly 800 miles, doorstep-to-doorstep, from my son Zane’s home in eastern Montana to my cozy space in Ponder Point. Coming home, I sang along to my favorite tunes for 11 hours as I wound alongside lazy rivers and familiar mountain ranges. It was a Norman Rockwell kind of postcard-perfect day — singing and savoring my Montana memories.
It was with high anticipation and great expectations that I spent weeks planning that trip, and every single moment was more than I had hoped for (especially our epic, $2,000 Costco trip in Billings, Mont.).
We made many trips to the grandkids’ school, where I cheered (loudly) during band concerts, football and volleyball games. Even more time was spent in Zane’s (newly) well-stocked kitchen, cooking hearty meals and filling the freezers full of favorites like lasagna, split pea soup, beef hash, smoked ribs and (lots of) cookies. I learned that I often worry needlessly about my son’s family. There’s an entire village/community that helps out on a daily basis. They’re in excellent hands and, ironically, I just discovered a fantastic way to pay it forward — sharing love and lasagna, right here at home.
That’s right. I discovered Lasagna Love. It’s a national grassroots movement that aims to supply neighbors in need with homemade meal deliveries. They also seek to eliminate the stigma associated with asking for help.
At the beginning of the pandemic, a young mom started making and delivering meals — mostly lasagna — to struggling families. Whether the struggles were related to the pandemic, hunger or emotional stresses, they were all real. The effort has grown into a national movement in fewer than two years, with thousands of people cooking and delivering meals in their communities around the country. The mission is simple: feed families, spread kindness and strengthen communities. If you’d like to get involved, you can gather additional information at their website: lasagnalove.org/get-involved.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to whip up a batch of lasagna, there are plenty of other ways to help your neighbors. The Bonner Community Food Bank can always use our help. Canned goods are an excellent choice to donate, including non-perishable items like pasta, rice, oatmeal and baking mixes. Cleaning supplies, diapers and dental care items are also welcome choices. If you’re feeling especially generous, monetary donations are the most helpful. You can check the website for their most current needs (and volunteer opportunities): foodbank83864.com
Another local community near and dear to my heart is Kinderhaven, the group foster home and emergency shelter for children removed from their homes for protection. It is staffed 24 hours a day by a devoted team of trained individuals. It’s the only residence of its kind in North Idaho, providing a home filled to the brim with love and compassion for its young residents.
I have nine perpetually hungry grandchildren and I can’t imagine keeping up with the needs of all those youngsters on a day-to-day basis. Kinderhaven welcomes donations and can always use individually wrapped snacks, such as granola bars, cookies, nuts and fruit rolls. They also accept personal hygiene products.
Like the food bank, monetary donations are genuinely appreciated. Check out their website to learn about their needs and to learn about one of our favorite annual events, the Festival of Trees: kinderhavensandpoint.com.
With a colossal crew coming for Thanksgiving, I’ve been stocking up dinner staples. I can’t lie — my last trip to Safeway gave me sticker shock when I spotted a $70 turkey (and it wasn’t even organic). For years, my good friend Wendy Franck has sponsored a free Thanksgiving dinner at her iconic diner, The Hoot Owl. Last year, they fed more than 400 people and, with rising food costs, she expects to provide even more meals this year.
We are all stronger together. So, if you can give, by all means do so. And if you’re in need, you are surrounded by a community of givers, waiting to help you.
Meanwhile, I’m baking up a few batches of cookies, inspired by those tasty little Halloween candy bars I can’t resist. These cookies are so good that I headed back to the store for more half-priced bags. Hopefully, you can still snag a bag, too.
• 1 cup butter, softened
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• About 35 mini (fun-sized) assorted chocolate bars (Twix, Snickers, Nestles Crunch, Hershey’s, Mars, Almond Joy, etc.), unwrapped, chilled and coarsely chopped by hand.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Whisk baking soda and salt into flour and set aside. In a standup mixer, cream together butter and sugars until smooth, then add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour mixture and mix well. By hand, stir in the chocolate mixture; drop with large spoonfuls (or use a small ice cream scoop), onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.
Bake for 12-14 minutes in the preheated oven, until edges are nicely browned (rotate pans halfway through baking). Don’t overbake. Loosen with spatula. Store cookies in an airtight container (before they all disappear!).
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