Ugly Bread

It all started out so beautifully. A wonderful mix of sourdough, kamut and rye… The late night kneading. The early morning molding…

But, you know. The afternoons are busy and there I was, tending to twelve different things at once–the bread was in the oven…

Somehow the oven was turned off. No need blaming anyone. Who really cares! I have a distinct appreciation for ugly bread–I have a whole photo folder dedicated to ugly bread pictures. Here is my latest. Isn’t it something?!!!IMG_4066Eek.

It’s awful.

The oven was turned back on and I finished the bake an hour later. At least it made the bread edible–not as bread, but as French toast the next morning.

But giving? I’m sorry to say, folks. I just can’t fathom giving something this horrible looking to anyone.

Not anyone.

So, I took it on a photo shoot, and let the bunnies have a sniff.

IMG_4063If you bake, then you can sympathize. Even my baker brothers can’t send every one of their loaves into the world.

Here are a few of my other, truly ugly creations:

IMG_0331st n close up braidingsour ugly baked

Cheers, Friends! Happy giving…

The Piano Teacher

Perhaps you had a less-than-inspirational piano teacher as a child? No? I’m so pleased. Music should be taught with encouragement, passion, praise and love!

I caught my little one recently on film in the middle of his lesson with our lovely teacher from outside the front window.

IMG_3992

And then I snuck inside and snapped another photo as they worked on yet more theory.

IMG_3997

And then I took a hot loaf of sourdough from the oven and offered it to Miss Katie as she left the house after a productive lesson.

Music is a language I believe in–and though one loaf of bread is only a small thanks, it is something that I can do right now during this busy time…

Did you know? My daughter learned to play the piano well enough to accompany herself and do this–in just one year? We purchased a piano and started her with lessons when she was fourteen. It’s never too late, friends!

Also, we have family musicales every year or so and everyone is required to play or do something. We dress up and sip sparkling drinks and have cake. Last time I played Oh! Susannah on the harmonica! (My brother composed a poem about his new daughter titled, Ode to Miss Poopy Pants :)) Making musical memories is a must. M.M.M.M.

Lastly, the piano guys are really cool. Have you ever watched this video? It’s one of my favorites and I’m thinking that I could do a series of blog posts where I bake breads in remote, unbelievably cool places. Wouldn’t that be super fun?!!!

Hope you’re all well, dear friends! Enjoy the giving…

Piano Recital--May 2013

Piano Recital–May 2013

Sourdough and the VW Van

For several days I’ve been keeping my sourdough active, ready for the right mixing moment. Late Wednesday I decided to get my hands into some dough, and mix a batch of homemade yumminess for Thursday night. If you want sourdough from scratch, you have to think 20 hours ahead.

My arm muscles got a workout and the physical movements cleared my mind and allowed me to shift into prayer. I do love the miracle of making bread.

Fast forward hours and hours and it’s time to score, and bake, and figure out what to do with that extra loaf. I almost posted a facebook status, hoping someone would be in the neighborhood, want to swoop by, and relieve me of a giving adventure. Giving is an adventure–especially when there’s NO plan.

AHA! I thought. Three weeks ago there was a raffle at school, and my little one needed to sell tickets. We scurried door to door, and at one house we met a new family who had recently moved in. I felt awful that our first meeting was all about exchanging $10 bills, so have wanted to bring them a proper Bread Welcome. Here was our chance.

But they weren’t home. At this point, I honestly wanted to return to the house and settle back into introvert world. I prefer weeding over meeting new people.

But we spied a gentleman down the road who was tinkering with the engine of his VW van. John Ronan was at my side, and he bounded down the road, shouting out hellos. I followed with a bagged loaf of bread. (Isn’t it pretty?!!!)

IMG_3889

Twenty minutes later, after a full tour of the VW van, its two sleeping compartments, a peek at the engine, a few stories of trips to Canada and Mexico, some fiddling with the cool cup holders, radio, etc and a last exchange about my daughter who plays piano at all hours and whom the neighbors adore… well, I finally dragged the little one away, promising we’d return another time for another van adventure. We had met a new friend, put a name to a face of a man we’ve been living near for over a dozen years… Once again, this giving proves…

That chatting with neighbors is better than weeding!

That giving is better than just about anything…

Cheers, friends!

Hang In There Bread

I spotted my priest, Father Nicholas, spooning strawberry jam onto a store bought white thing that resembled bread. That was midday Monday. That was his lunch…

It’s Wednesday and I’ve been thinking about that moment ever since. When I realized I’d have a few hours to bake today, I knew who needed a fresh ring of rosemary rolls, and a jar of homemade kumquat marmalade (so good!). He’s an incredible faster, that man, but I don’t want him to tumble from the altar with so many services left to go!

[Be Gone--you old, preservative-filled white bread, kept in the church refrigerator!]

Rosemary rolls, and kumquat marmalade–to be handed over after unction tonight.

IMG_1607

It’s Holy Week for us Orthodox–blessings to all of you who are in the midst of this beauty.

For those in Fort Collins, our old home town, digging out from the snow storm–I send you good wishes for an AMAZING summer (in which all of your vegetables grow enormous and every day brings sun and respite).

And to the rest of you lovely folk, near and far–Cheers and happy baking and giving!

Just My Size

IMG_3698

I am not a large human and have found that kitchen gifts once given to my kids are quite useful. Here’s an inventory of my mini-utensil stash, which lives on my counter year round.

Artichoke pitcher: Made by me, in pottery class, while studying landscape architecture a few centuries ago.

Hedgehog: Hangs on for dear life, and appreciates being part of the kitchen gang.

Mini-whisks, mini-ladels: Three of them. Two of them.

Mini metal spatula (hiding behind one of the wooden spoons): Used to be for play, now for cookies and fish sticks, and most everything that comes out of our counter-top oven.

Mini-wooden spoons: These are used often, often, often. Especially for mixing fresh flour into my sourdough starter.

And did I mention the hedgehog?! I do like these little creatures and I just had to write them into The Hidden Garden, where they get to play inside the gate of the Old Man’s heart…

There’s nothing childish about being small. If you haven’t yet raided your little one’s toy kitchen, you can always write to Saint Nicholas come Christmas. :)

IMG_3732

Nicole

It’s easy to make new friends on facebook, or twitter, or pinterest, or instagram, isn’t it? Friend requests come flowing in and I think–wow, if they lived next door, would they really want to be my friend? ! :) Since I have neighbors who seem terribly uninterested in striking up a friendship with me or my boisterous family, I’m thinking the distance of my computer to yours has a lot to do with the courage folks seem to have in seeking out new people to correspond with…

Over the years, especially through the online work I do with Conciliar Press and other writers, I’ve made lots of real friends that I’ve never actually met in person. These people are dear to me, and if we ever have the chance to meet face-to-face there will be shouts and hugs and much admiring that other three-dimensional being.

But the other online state of friendship has more to do with pithy comments and pressing little hearts as likes. It’s just a bit of fun, and if I happened upon some of these folks on the street I might not know what to do with them! :)

All this to say, I’m proud of Nicole, and pretty pleased with myself, too, that the two of us decided to meet and say hello. We were introduced via facebook through a mutual friend–and there wasn’t really any pressing reason for us to strike up a friendship, except that we’re both part of the dying breed of redheads :) And we both like books, and chocolate. (Okay, those three things might be enough!)

No matter how it happened. I mixed and molded. I baked and hip hopped across town, a loaf of warm sourdough filling the car with an almost edible odor. We sat, and chatted, and  I admired her curls, and she talked about her work as a librarian… It was lovely.

Here’s to Nicole, and hopefully many future gatherings where books are at the forefront of the conversation!

IMG_3654

No Fooling March

IMG_3395

It’s almost April first, and looking back on the last few weeks, I am thankful that some hard lessons learned in the past few years have given me the gumption and the experience to say NO. Do you ever get caught in that place when you have four too many things all happening at once? Or a life that resembles an over-stuffed purse? To stay sane in March, I said no to blogging, and no to volunteering at lunch hour, and no to making soup for church. I said no again and again, because if I didn’t, I’d be much thinner right now and probably a terrible mix of grumpy and sick.

I think I’m through the worst of the fire, and headed back into Yes territory. My littlest son and I have fallen into a nice routine of homeschooling in the morning (long story!!!); I get a bit of work time in the early afternoon while he’s at school, and the late afternoons are dedicated to everything family–driving hither and yon, soccer, yogurt making, laundry, searching out the rabbits from under the nasturtiums–you know!

I have been able to do a bit of baking this last week. Because Teen Star ended, and my duties as Mom Chaperone ended, and, well, my daughter/singer/performer/Miss Madeleine was AMAZING?! We wondered how she would do up on a giant stage, singing her little 16-year-old heart out, and she wozzied the crowd. That girl has guts, and charm, and a mighty big voice for her little body, and she just about won the whole crazy thing! Very fun to see someone want to do something, and then succeed. We’re so proud of how hard she worked and are praying that she will use her talent wisely…

Baking! I’m headed back on track and my first moment of giving that I want to share with you was to support a young mom who’s fighting cancer. She lives kind of far away, so some special friends volunteered to take food the 45 minutes south and fill up that family’s freezer. Pans and pans of food left town, and thankfully I was able to help with the effort and send some warm sourdough along in the car. It was a small gift, but I’m thankful I was able to give alongside so many generous others.

Moment number two and three were both mass bakings for events at church. On Friday I mixed up some molasses bread and carted that off to our akathist service followed by a soup dinner, and today I rose at 5am!!! to bake two enormous loaves of bread to support our Saint Brigid’s homeless ministry. Getting my hands and heart back into giving has made me extra grateful for the gifts I have–of family, home, friends, sunshine, bunnies, time to write, children and a husband to love, words, music, and the occasional burst of quiet. Giving brings gratitude…

So March is ticking its way out as I type. Just a little under two hours until April Fools, and who knows what tomorrow will bring? I’ve got about three dozen bread recipes I’m itching to try, and a list a mile long of people I want to give something to:

Nicole

The new guy who just bought the house on the corner who has chickens

My son’s amazing first grade teacher

The Montecito Library librarians

Kate, who is pregnant

Our mail carrier

I might even mail some cinnamon rolls to my son for Pascha

…what about you–is this a Yes or a No season in your life?