Going Underground

Good friends!

I’m about to become a spy of sorts…

And this photo may seem unrelated, but it’s not.

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My son had a play date!

When you have a child with developmental struggles, then you might understand the  underlying meaning of my excitement. We have entered a new season here at the Meyer home.  A season of a new school, and new friends, and new hope.

You see… Last year was hard.

And this new season–a season of play dates!!!–has my mama’s heart, and my writer’s mind headed in new directions. All of my creative energies, all of my practical, and emotional, and physical energies… much of my spiritual life has all been pointed in one direction these last two years. Toward one little blonde boy, whom we adore with all our hearts. But finally I have help. Right now, he has a whole team rooting him on, teaching him things we have tried to share out of sheer instinct. He’s on a new road and progressing well. We are on a new road together.

I’m so grateful that the baking, and the giving have become second nature to me. I don’t mix one loaf, I mix two. I cart the other off to a neighbor, to someone hungry on the street, to a new mom, or someone struggling with illness. I get asked to bake for potlucks, and to add to the homeless meals on Mondays. I’ve felt my heart stretch and have been thankful for this online community who has cheered me on… Thank you!

Thank you.

But I’m ready for my giving to go underground. For it to be between me and my family, and between me and my God. I’m ready to write about other things. To write about others who give. And to write about one little boy and this home that supports him, and my friends who pray for me, and to allow those other words, struggling to come out, to find a place.

This is not the end. This blog will continue to grow and stretch. I’ll still post baking tips from time to time. And recipes. And I’ll find ways to share, but there will definitely be a shift. Just wanted you to know, since you have only offered me encouragement these last many years.

Thank you for being such lovely supporters of my giving, and my blogging about it. I’ve enjoyed sharing with you some of the ups (mostly ups!) and downs.

And I thought it’d be nice to put in some links to some of my favorite posts over the last four plus years. Maybe I’m just sentimental, but I sure have enjoyed this space…

Thankful for family. November 2009

A trip back to the family house in France. November 2009

Struggling to give. December 2009

On Silliness. December 2009

Learning from the poor. January 2010

Making salt from scratch. April 2010

Asking reluctant children to give. June 2010

Musings on blogging publicly about my giving. July 2010

A very large, sloppy cake and a birthday party in the forest. November 2010

One of my favorite ways to bake–rolls in the round. March 2011

On being a better giver. March 2011

It really does snow in the mountains above Santa Barbara. March 2011

Changed through giving. April 2011

Morning light. May 2011

The best scone recipe in the world. May 2011

On not blogging, but just giving. August 2011

All about Saint Brigid. January 2012

Slowing down. January 2012

Staying thin. February 2012

Planting wheat berries to grow wheat grass. May 2012

Learning from those who leave us. September 2012

Giving with teens. November 2012

The beauty of Simple and Slow. November 2012

Recipe for making prosphoron. December 2012

At the monastery–the best way to start a new year. January 2013

Making butter from scratch. January 2013

Two reasons I don’t often blog (my children!). March 2013

A short trip to Paris! July 2013

Sending you all love and good cheer, my friends. And happy baking!

In the meantime, you can always find me on instagram, facebook, sometimes on twitter, I log all the books I like and read on goodreads, and you can always contact me through my website.

jane

Because I Fainted in the School Cafeteria…

So, it’s a 95 degree day.

And you are really an Arctic dweller in disguise, living in Southern California.

And you’ve been known to faint.

And the latex gloves just feel so hot! And the Sweet Potato fries that you’re serving to fourth graders are even hotter!

Fast forward to the nurse’s office, and there I am, stretched out with a bag of ice on my head and a fifth grader on the other cot with a toothache. That was after Scene Number Two. And The Wheelchair.

Ha! It all passed, and I was humiliated, and the Meyers, new to the school, are now even more infamous than that first day when I caused Scene Number One.

Cookies to the rescue. I baked up some salted butter hearts, and wrapped them with ridiculous notes of how I’d be volunteering in the school library from now on, thank you!

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And delivered three bundles.

One, to Josie The Nurse, who did the wheeling. Two, to Chef Laurel, who didn’t need my kind of volunteer in her kitchen. And three, to the Asst Principal who was there with her Walkie Talkie when I told her I wanted to lay down on the cafeteria floor and disappear.

One of my favorite givings of the year. Unplanned, but kinda needed.

Cheers, friends!

Baking on the Big Green Egg

My last post explained a bit of how my parents have moved to a new home and are getting settled here in Santa Barbara. My dad’s ultimate goal is a garden and chickens (coming soon!), but along the way he’s had many other interesting thoughts and hopes–and some have come to fruition, and others, like the outdoor oven I was telepathically rooting for, have not.

But, he did purchase a Big Green Egg.

If you haven’t encountered one of these round, fuel efficient, space-age-looking barbecues, then, well, maybe you will? :) I have a brother-in-law who loves his–and makes pizza, and cooks turkeys, and bakes lasagnas and all sorts of other kooky things… But cooking on this type of barbecue is all new for me and my dad.

We were curious how a loaf of bread would bake in the egg. Would it act like my cast iron pots, would it bake like a wood-fired pizza oven, would it mimic an earthen oven? So we put it to the test one gorgeous, Santa Barbara afternoon.

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And the verdict is?

  • We opened the lid too many times to check on things.
  • The heat was easy to control by fiddling with the vents and we were basically able to bake between 500 and 400 degrees for the full 40 minutes.
  • The surface of the heating stone gets too hot and burns the bottom of the loaves. Will need to fix that–will ask Brother-In-Law!!!
  • Had to scrape away quite a layer of char on the bottom.
  • The heat in the egg seems to be quite dry–will add a can of water for steam next time.
  • Though the finished loaves look kind of nice in the photograph, the crust color was pasty and muted, and I know you’ll say they look super fabulous, but you were not measuring their color alongside a dad, who is a baker…
  • Warm bread, no matter how off color, even when you have to saw away the burned bottom with a knife, is always delicious…

Because we burned the bottom of the bread, we decided not to grace the neighbors with the second loaf. We WILL try again and certainly do some sharing.

What about you? Have you had success baking in an outdoor setting? I’d love to hear your stories of adventurous baking.

Cheers, friends…

You-Can-Do-It Bread!

My parents, who were born and raised on the westside of Los Angeles, moved to Santa Barbara a year and a half ago. They purchased a home near us where they knew they could have a lovely garden, and chickens, far from the craziness of westside traffic, where driving has become a sport for some, and almost war-like for others.

But in order to have the garden and those chickens, they had to make their home live-able. With no bedrooms on the ground floor, they embarked on a remodeling adventure that still isn’t over!

So close, though.

For all of this time they’ve lived virtually out of a suitcase, but just last week the final round of their things from storage arrived. What a big task, to sort and question, and figure out how to make this new home theirs, and what to do with all the Stuff!

To encourage them, we’ve been having them to our home for meals for these 18 months–not every night, but often. And though their home isn’t quite finished, we decided to barbecue at their place to mark the progress of it being Almost Done! My dad is a breadmonger, being a baker and all, and he really doesn’t eat a meal without a piece of bread near his plate. So I mixed up a batch of country French–a blend of white flour, freshly ground kamut, and rye, with some sourdough starter thrown in for flavor. We toted it over to their place, then I took the loaf for a quick tour of their new home. The real housewarming will come when the landscaping is done and all the furniture is placed, but here’s a glimpse into their current world–mess and stuff and all. (Made complete by the visiting neighbor dog, Puppy, who literally roams where she likes and spends at least half her day inspecting the workers and their work…)

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Paris

My husband and I jetted to Paris for three days this last week. What a treat!

Three days isn’t long enough for much, not for visiting museums or long boat rides on the Seine, but it’s plenty long enough for several wonderful meals celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary, a stroll or two across the Pont Neuf, at least one chaussons aux pommes in the morning, and a dinner with a niece. Plus,

The Wedding!

Family friends have a beautiful daughter who has been living in Paris for several years now. She found Gabriel, and now they’re married! They celebrated their vows at a church I’ve longed to see for many years, the Saint Serge Orthodox Institute.

I was delighted at the sight of the Chateau Champlatreux–the setting for the reception. What a lovely venue… and as we walked through the front door, there was the traditional Slavic custom of bread and salt offered on an embroidered cloth, signifying the gift of hospitality and friendship and the blessing of a new home.

Three days. Three days of Paris! Three days to celebrate our own 25-year journey and the blessing of a brand new union…

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Plum Jam :: Recipe

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One of the first things we planted in our yard, when we moved to Santa Barbara thirteen years ago, is a plum tree. I adore caring for fruit trees, and we’ve always planted a variety of trees and other edible goodies on all the properties where we’ve lived.

Our Santa Rosa plum gets plenty of sun, is carefully pruned (by me!!! I love pruning shears and ladders), and every year we have a three week blast of fruit that turns us into domestic plum mongers. We dash about, making jam, and fruit leather. We give bags and bags of fruit away, we make plum clafouti, and plum crisps, and we keep a bowl of fresh plums on the counter–that whispers an unspoken, mandatory message–MEYERS MUST EAT PLUMS NOW.

This year, the bounty was overwhelming, and one Saturday we woke up to discover there was a garage sale happening right across the street. We hastily set up store, and this little mister made himself a $30 profit in a short morning of calling out to the folks perusing the old pots and pans at Cindy’s house.

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Because I love to share things coming out of my kitchen with folks, and because this summer has been more about sharing plum jam and kumquat marmalade, than bread, here is a recipe that I make year after year, sun or fog, that you might like to try!

Plum Jam

We are not really a jam-buying family; we only eat what we make from the fruit we grow. I don’t like sweet, sugared-up jams and jellies–I prefer them closer to the natural state, so my fruit recipes reflect that. Since there is less sugar involved in this recipe than what you typically find, in fact there is NO refined SUGAR involved; I use honey; it takes a little longer to cook the jam down to the consistency that I like. I don’t mind slow when it tastes this good…

  • 5 cups of chopped plums—no pits (our tree is a Santa Rosa plum, make sure you leave the peel on the fruit!)
  • juice of a lemon
  • 1 cup plus a little drizzle more of honey

Put honey, lemon juice and cut plums in pot and stir. Let mash sit for an hour.

Close your doors and shut your windows before you turn on the heat. Bees like to zoom in and examine what sort of honey you happen to be cooking with…. Clover? Orange Blossom? Wildflower? Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring and skimming foam with a large metal spoon. Cook at medium heat for about 20 minutes. Then reduce heat to a low, low simmer and cook another 30-40 minutes to reduce water content and thicken. Stir occasionally.

Your jam is now done! You can scoop it into glass jars and keep it in the fridge for a long while, at least a month or two (or more–never really tried to see how long!). You can freeze it. I always can a number of jars by ladling the jam into clean, sterilized mason jars, then processing them for 20 minutes in a roiling, boiling pot of water.

Make sure you share! This jam is especially wonderful on a buttered piece of sourdough toast, added to a fruit smoothie, or mixed in with some hot herbal tea on a cold winter day…

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Ugly Transformed

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My last post was all about a really awful-looking loaf of bread. See it above? All wrinkly, white, dense and unpresentable? But with all those good ingredients inside, I decided to reuse what I had ruined. Ever heard of bread recycling?!

I I broke pieces of the ruined bread from day old loaves and made a very wet mix of new dough. I chose to use the no-knead method, and hoped that this magical recipe, which I have never ever ruined, despite the many variations I’ve tried, would help redeem my good ingredients…

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And voila!

The bread turned out beautifully, and off it went to be shared, with another loaf of no-knead that I mixed a jar of red pepper mix into…

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I like that all of this happened. That the ugly happened and that I was willing to do the work and search for a new beauty. It’s a good metaphor for me–because brokenness is around me, around all of us, but with work we can save the good and make something new and redeemed from the bad. It just takes effort, and faith.

And guess what? I’m off to Paris, friends, and will be writing from there! Sending you all love…