an eye for a pie?

When I was still wearing feety pajamas and cooking in my easy-bake-oven, I was a Strawberry Shortcake addict.  Not the biscuits with piles of fresh whipping cream and syrupy mess of mauled berries.  The doll and all her friends.  Of course, I, of all people, had to be the girl who played with the dolls that smelled like food.  I wonder why this stopped, this whole idea of dolls smelling of food.  Today they could get very advanced.  Who wouldn’t want a Meatball Action Hero? 

Strawberry Shortcake’s villain was the Peculiar Purple Pie man.  Here’s what I’ve learned since then: anyone who bakes a pie cannot be evil.  Back when I was dating, I met a boy in a café.  We liked each other enough to exchange names and numbers.  That night, he phoned, inviting me over to rent a movie.  This meant make out.  It was a middle school move.  I suspect guys who do this–invite you over to not watch a movie on the first date–will always be guys.  The kind of guys with futons, poker night, and a stash of pot, who try to impress you by taking you to their rooftop with a bottle of Merlot.  They light purple candles and still listen to Cream.  “I don’t even know you.  I’m not coming to your apartment.” 
To which he responded, “Look Steph, we’re Jews.  Nothing bad ever happens when two Jews get together, okay?”  I laughed.  He was right, and his saying that immediately put me at ease.  Still, talk about lazy.  So Jews sent to sleep away camps and competitive schools can’t be evil, according to this brilliant theory of his, and as I said, no one who bakes a pie can be evil, not even Martha, despite what I’ve heard. 

Which brings me to this: how do you say thank you for a pie?  Yes, you graciously dip your head in sincere thanks and awe, but how do you repay your neighbor for bringing over a homemade apple cranberry pie.  Now I know I can trust her with a key to my home.  She cannot be evil.  There is good in all things sugar and spice.  I’m sure she even made both the top and bottom crusts from scratch.  They’re too thick and flaky to be Pillsbury.  She a surgeon, too, with three well-behaved adorable children, so she made time to bake. 

She didn’t "just" bring over an entire pie (complete with hand-carved pastry leaves on top).  Cookies came next.  Halloween sugar cookies, kissed with candy corn tops.  How do I show her how thankful I am?  How does one respond?  Eye for an eye?  Do I bring her more baked goods?  Walnut honey square bars?  This isn’t the first time she’s baked, either.  When we first moved in, she and her son baked us a batch of cookies.  This city girl is overwhelmed in such a delightful way!  I’ve got to gear up in my crafty gift-giving ways; Thanksgiving is nearly upon us!  Pumpkin tarts?  Or do I respond with something else?  A vat of soup!  I love love love soup.  Pumpkin soup, served in mini hollowed-out gourds, with a swirl of fresh cream, and a dash of freshly-grated nutmeg or newly slivered young chives?  Gift ideas for neighbors, co-workers, loved ones a la autumn, “just because” are welcome.  I guess I can always invite her over to rent a movie.  Ahem.



  1. A bunch of flowers is always nice. Especially if they're from your own garden. But you don't have to 'repay' her now … she baked to welcome you. she doesn't expect something back! You'll take her flowers or some beautiful smelling soaps sometime in the future.

  2. Oh, and what about Jeffrey Dahmer – didn't he bake and tuck his victims' chopped up fingers and liver and other parts in the pies to eat? Or did he just have them raw … oh yes, he fried them.
    Ok ok ok, gross. You are right. You cannot be a pie-baker and be evil.

  3. Butternut squash soup is perfect for fall. I also adore pumpkin bread… you can mix different goodies into the loaves, like walnuts, or mini chocolate chips… or both! Then wrap the bread in colored saran wrap and top with a bow. Yum. Still too early for peppermint bark…

  4. If it were me, I would avoid the sweets and let that be her forte. Totally the vat of homemade soup! It sounds delightful.

    Way to meet new friends and neighbors, sharing in the love of comfort foods!

  5. If it were NYC and freezing out, I would suggest soup, but then again, who doesn't enjoy soup. It's always nice to pretend that it's 40 degrees and blustery. Either way, I'm sure she'll enjoy it.

  6. A surgeon with 3 well-behaved kids who makes her own pie crust? I'm reminded of a 1970's SNL piece with Jane Curtin enumerating her home/career accomplishments and asking "do you want to know how I do it? Speed. That's right, speed." It fades out with Jane maniacally folding and sorting brown grocery bags.

  7. How close do you want to get to this neighbor? You don't know her well, and you wouldn't want her to become stalkerish, but I'm a NYer, so I tend to err on the side of caution. Besides, didn't you once blog about not knowing your neighbors in your apt bldg in NY? Well, here's your chance. She has already extended herself a few times. In Austin is that being friendly or over the top? Anyway, what I was going to suggest was inviting her over w/ her kids to decorate pumpkins, since you're crafty, and the kids could eventually be future playmates/helpers for your babies. Or, you could also invite them over to bake and decorate pumpkin cookies. It all depends on how much time you want to spend w/ these new neighbors. You may not want them to become TTTWL (the things that wouldn't leave!) Or, if this is too much togetherness, you could always decorate the pumpkins or cookies yourself and bring them over as a gift. Either way, it could be fun for you, and I'm sure they'd appreciate your gesture.

  8. I'd invite the family for brunch or a Sunday night dinner……complete with soup. This is a neighbor to be treasured!

  9. That's sweet. Maybe she's looking for a friend? Why not invite her (and her husband, if she has one) over for a meal? You are obviously an excellent cook, and we know how you like to entertain!

  10. You could "Boo" them!

    You leave a poem (below is from– there are several versions out there) and a gift on the doorstep, ring the bell, and run. My mom always cuts out a ghost silhouette on white paper and writes the words on there. I've seen people leave sweets, a bottle of wine, pretty autumnal notecards– or soup! ;)

    "BOO" POEM:

    The air is cool, the season fall,
    Soon Halloween will come to all
    Ghosts and goblins, spooks galore
    Tricky witches at your door.
    The spooks are after things to do,
    In fact a spook brought this to you!!!
    The treats that came with this short note,
    Are yours to keep, enjoy them both.
    The excitement comes when friends like you,
    Will copy it & make it two,
    We'll all have smiles upon our faces,
    No one will know who "BOO"ed whoses places!!
    Just two short days to work your spell,
    Keep it secret, hide it well.
    Please join the fun, the season's here.
    Just spread these "BOO's" & Halloween cheer.

    Also include a note that says:

    You have been BOOED! Please keep it going by following these directions:

    1) Enjoy your treat
    2) Place the BOO sign on your front door or visible in a window
    3) Within 2 days, make a copy of this note, make/buy a treat & a BOO sign
    4) Secretly deliver to a neighbor/friend without a BOO sign.
    5) Keep an eye on nearby front doors to see how far and fast it spreads by Halloween.

  11. Make out with her!
    I jest, what a great neighbor. I'd return the favor or give her something artsy craftsy. I wish we had neighbors that did more than allow their dog to make our backyard a toilet.

  12. I'm in my final year of college, and we're all so broke as students that the movie night can still be acceptable. It's free! But I do look forward to graduation and more dinners out with real grown-ups.
    Is it too warm in Texas for hot things? Because in fall, I always like real hot cocoa, or pumpkin brownies (so simple–a box of devils food cake mix and a can of pumpkin. then sprinkle in 'pumpkin pie spice' to taste and follow the directions for baking the cake–the other TAs loved them last year), or a thermos of hot cider or something. Or, do a kit–buy some pretty, big ceramic mugs and box them up with some nice coffee beans and some scones. Breakfast kit! Even in Texas where it never gets cold (or I assume), they have to love hot coffee in giant mugs!

  13. When I moved from the city to the burbs, the same thing happened. I had pineapple upside down cake the next morning from 1 neighbor. Ice Cream from another — she works for the ice cream company! And homemade chocolate chip cookies from yet another!

    So – I made a huge batch of brownies and split it up between all 3 – put it in their tupperware/on their plate and delivered it back to them! I also made Christmas Candy for the whole neighborhood! I'm so Martha Stewart sometimes… LOL

    I'd get myself a small pumpkin or gourd. Cut off the top. Scrape out the insides. Bake up the seeds… Then put a lovely bouquet of Mums in the pumpkin. Hand deliver it to her with the baked seeds in a pretty vellum bag. Now THAT is a thank you gift. :)

  14. I believe proper etiquette says that you are supposed to fill the dish with something else when you give it back to her — whether that is flowers, cookies, soup, another pie, quiche… is totally up to you!

    I'm a young homeowner, living with my boyfriend, and I live in MN where it snows a lot (duh). Our first winter in the house, it snowed about a foot one night and my boyfriend snowblowed everybody's walkways and sidewalks, just to be nice. OMG, the influx of pies, muffins, cookies… it was overwhelming… and I felt like I was living in 1954, and I LOVED IT.

  15. Pumpkin Spice Cookies? They are delish and my favorite. Honestly, I don't think that she is looking for a repayment of sorts. She sounds like the type of neighbor that everybody would like to have around, and she wants you to know it. A repayment would just take away from what she has graciously offered you. If you feel something is necessary, maybe a bouquet of flowers or an afternoon tea to get to know her – You mentioned she is a surgeon so she may not have time for that..but, it doesn't hurt to ask. Pumpkin spice cookies are still my vote though…great for the holiday season!

  16. for the holidays, make a big patch of Reindeer Dust, bag it and tie with a festive bow and deleiver to neighboorhood families.

    Reindeer Dust is oatmeal and glitter. The idea is that if it is sprinkle don the lawn, the reindeers will smell the oats and see the glitter and be sure to stop at your home.

    My children love going out on Christmas Eve and sprinkling the dust all over right before bed.

  17. Fresh bread – some delicious fresh, hot bread is the right way to reciprocate. Maybe with a little jar of home-made honey butter. Yum! Glad it's a friendly neighborhood.

  18. Ok here is what I think :)

    I think you should treat her to something you are good at, that you take pride in! Dont know if you would want to pass her a copy of your book, or maybe some poems – or perhaps take her out for a spa pedicure and get to know her better.

    Food is always great, but I know you have plenty of talents – she gave you a taste of hers, now give her a taste of yours!

  19. I am betting that she's wanting to impress you and become friends. She probably knows who you are or has heard by now.

    Why waste time on baking? Friend games, that's what that is!

    Just invite her over and chat her up. Maybe you'll like her, maybe you won't.


  20. You just can't respond to a food gift with the same food gift. It has to be a different food gift. I'd say the soup is a wonderful idea, if she hasn't already given you soup. Put it in a jar and tie some raffia around it for a bow. I love getting soup.

  21. You might invite her and her family for a dinner at your home or only her for a coffee/tea to have a chat. Then, you might as well give her a copy of your book ; )

    I like very much this american custom: welcome gift to neighbors. In Italy we are not used to behaving like this with our neighbors.


  22. Yeah, I never go for the "rented movie and implied makeout for a first date" guy. It comes off as slightly sleazy/creepy as well as cheap. I don't expect to be wined and dined, but I do expect to leave the house!

    Everyone should be on their "A" behavior and manners for at least the first few dates, and if that's the best you can muster, I don't want to see what you're like when you let it all hang out. (Same goes for breaches such as bad tipping, being rude to waiters, getting really drunk, espousing "ist" views. . . . Even if it's not showing that you're not into me enough to behave well, it shows that you're not socialized enough to take in public, and I'm sorry your parents failed you, but it's not my job to train you!)

  23. When we first moved to the burbs, we were astonished by the generosity of our neighbors. ASTONISHED. Living in the city, you rarely get to know your neighbors even though you listen to them orgasm on a regular basis. Sometimes, food is what is (more) intimate though. One of our first neighborly surprises were her homegrown tomatoes. Big boys! How do we return the gesture, we asked ourselves as well. One night she had leftover dinner rolls and brought them over piping hot. OH MY GOD! Did we win the lottery? Good neighbors become good friends. You WILL exchange food. You look after each others homes, pets, and keep their key for "just in case." This is home, having great neighbors. Welcome home.

  24. Even living in a neigborhood, it's still hard to make friends. I would be delighted if a neighbor invited me over for a simple glass of wine and some good conversation. I know you can't partake, but you can always have some sparkling water in a wine glass while you share one of your favorite wines. Nice, friendly neighbors should be cherished. Invite her over and get to know her.

  25. The pumpkin soup just made my mouth water!
    I LOVVVE the fall. So I think anything fall related would be great. The soup idea sounds good. Maybe drop her off some soup and suggest getting together for some coffee or a walk one evening. That way you can get to know her even better. It's so nice to have such great neighbors!
    PS- I love, and still would wear feety pajamas… is that weird? I've seriously recently searched online for some….

  26. They actually do still make dolls that smell, but it just isn't the same. The smell doesn't really smell how it's supposed to though.

  27. Definitely invite this woman (and possibly the rest of her brood) over to supper one evening. If not only to return the favour, then to gather some tips. This woman is a surgeon, has three children and has time to bake homemade anything? She's obviously doing something right. You've got twins on the way and she's probably got advice to impart— although, I'm sure you'll do perfectly well either way.

  28. Make her some rugula (spelling?). Do you think anyone in Texas has had any? My Mom use to make it. I'd eat so much of it I'd be sick. For some reason it reminds me of fall.

  29. I have never understood the "come over and watch a movie" ploy so early into dating as it clearly means "come over so I can get into your pants." Boys are so transparent.

  30. I think the best gift would be inviting her and her family (yes, even her kids) over to your house for dinner. Make her family feel welcome in your home in the way that she's made you feel welcome in her neighborhood. Make sure that the kids have some crayons or a video to watch at your house and cook them all a nice meal. It will be much appreciated. You can invite parents to your home, but if they have to worry about the kids being with a babysitter that can sometimes be more of a hassle instead. Keep us posted with what you decide to do!

  31. Okay, I'm not trying to be snarky here, but I HATE that boo thing. HATE! Maybe it's just me, but my gosh, I'm busy already. I don't want either have to be nice or be scorned and reviled by my neighbors. I deal with people all day long, and by golly, when I'm home I want it to be the 3 teens and me. Period. No phone, no doorbell and sure as heck no BOO doorbell ditchers.

    Oh gosh – I guess I'm grouchy. Sorry.

  32. deliver to a neighbor who DOES NOT HAVE A BOO SIGN ALREADY. if the neighbor HAS A BOO SIGN then she has ALREADY BEEN "boo'ed"
    get it?

    happy to 'splain!

  33. Pumpkin Bread — great for the Fall. Email me if you want the most incredible recipe.

    But you could just be grateful and thankful and write a sweet thank you note. There will be plenty of time to do nice things for your neighbors. You are lucky — as I have been. You look at so many houses, trying to decide whether it has enough natural light, a kitchen you like etc. But the neighbors are this unknown element. I have also been blessed with such great neighbors, who bring me presents (a pumpkin, goodies from the farmers' market, an orchard) and who I bring presents to, who invite me to family events etc.

  34. This may be off subject…but it sounds great to have a (friendly) doctor living so close by! Even though she is a surgeon nice to know that if there is (g-d forbid, knock wood) ever an emergency, there is someone you can call!

    I'm all for inviting them over, kids and all. And mayb send a nice bottle of wine maybe for Thanksgiving/Channukah/Christmas/New Years.

  35. I went to college in Oklahoma and the people are friendly like that there too. I say Pumpkin soup and homemade rolls, plus include some special tea with a note inviting her to come over and share a cuppa sometime. She sounds like a nice lady and a possible new friend.

  36. Definitely agree with the above poster who said to leave baking to your neighbor, that is her thing, you don't want to end up in a bake off with the woman. I know you like crafts, what about making her a nice wreath for her door in fall colors ot since the other holidays are right around the corner you could make something Christmas/holidays themed?

  37. Wow, my suburbia is way different from yours…we've lived in our new house for over three years and I coldn't tell you the names of any of our neighbors.

    All of these comments are getting me excited about the holiday traditions and treats that are coming up in the next few months! I'm definitely going to try ladykatya's mums in a gourd idea…and the reindeer dust makes me want to have kids tomorrow so I can start that tradition. What crafty readers you have Stephanie!

    I'm not so crafty so I'm going to piggyback on another suggestion and second the pumpkin carving idea, or some sort of fall activity with her family. It doesn't seem so "tit for tat" that way, like you feel obligated to cook something too.

  38. Call me a grinch, but I hate that Boo crap. Ditto the reindeer dust. One year a neighbor threw that glitter mess on my lawn. It looked like a Vegas showgirl exploded. And it doesn't wash away fast, either. It's basically litter, just shiny litter.

  39. I think you should make something you really like to make, and you really seem to love the thought of soup. So make her soup. If you're neighbors, there will be plenty of time for other things, and clearly she seems to have pastries down.

  40. One of my lovely neighbors sent over a basket of bagels with an assortment of cream cheese covered with a beautiful linen napkin. My kids acted like they never had a bagel before. It was very enjoyable.I presently don't have a lot of time right now other than for slice n' bake but I found that the offer to pick up some things at the store when I am going can be just as valuable.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.