Thursdays: Round the Dinner Table

Two loaves of no-knead bread–one mixed with herbes de Provence. Yum

Mixed: 10 pm

Molded: 12:15 pm next day

Baked: 2:15 pm

Ate one at table, gave the other to Glenn to take home

I seem to enjoy weekly appointments. For a long while I’ve been heading to the beach every week with my now five year-old. We walk, splashing our feet in the water, or I sit and crochet while he digs or throws rocks, or we crawl around in the tide pools, marveling at the sea creatures. We’ve been going every week for almost 2 1/2 years and it has made my life so much richer. A good dose of nature once a week cures many ills.

And I garden most Saturdays, along with scrubbing some part of the house. Please stop on by, I can always use another hand. I’ll make you lemonade if it’s hot, or hot tea if it’s cold, and you can chop at my ever-growing hedge. ๐Ÿ™‚

And Tuesdays are my free-ish days. I leave a big block of time open for the library, hiking, meeting friends, apple picking, or playing at a new park…

Of course, Sunday is church.

So, it makes sense that Thursday nights are becoming a regular evening for sharing meals with a friend or three. My husband loves to cook, and I jump in the kitchen and bake, and both of us enjoy having as many folks around the table as we can squeeze. We’re open to inviting all sorts: old friends, new friends, the guy who serves my husband coffee at his favorite morning haunt. And next week we’ll be having our house blessed on Thursday, so that will be an especially festive evening.

I’m an introvert. But I’ve come to realize that people–really getting to know people, listening to them, appreciating their many talents and gifts, inspiring them, encouraging them–that people make life rich and full of adventure. I’m enjoying our Thursday nights and ask you to think about opening your home, too, even if what you offer seems meagre.

Over twenty years ago, when my husband and I were newly married, we invited a family of seven into our small apartment for dinner. We tossed the cotton mattress off the futon, spread a cloth on the low wooden frame, sat on the floor, drank from mismatched china… But what fun! Just being together.

So, I’m off to bake yet another batch of something. The herbes de Provence in the no-knead recipe is worth repeating. The pumpkin bread recipe is almost perfected, and that hedge just won’t stop growing!

What sorts of things do you do every week? I’d love to hear…

Cheers!

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January Thanks

I WILL not complain about my camera not being repaired yet. Even though it’s been out of service since Christmas Eve… I will not…

I did.

Sheesh.

I am having such fun fiddling with a pumpkin bread recipe that I found online. I’m trying to get it just right, and have been making a weekly batch since mid-December. I recently shared a loaf with a sweet woman who works at my son’s school–an indispensable woman. She was out with the flu all last week, so I thought I’d make her a Stay-Well loaf.

Yesterday I baked four loaves of French bread for another homeless dinner at our church. These dinners are always humbling. The line up begins at about 4:15, with dinner being served at 4:30. Bicycles are parked along the fence, some with trailers attached, others with fake flowers woven between the handle bars. Many of the men and women are known to our community, but there are always a few newcomers… The meal begins after a brief prayer of thanks–this time Madeleine helped spoon out the spaghetti and Andrew put bread on the plates–I served as a food runner, toting more platters when supplies ran short.

There’s chatter and bantering and hellos. It’s the end of the month and some say this dinner is the first meal they’ve had all day. Some complain that there’s not enough sauce on the spaghetti–some want two helpings of butter on their bread–some slur so badly you cant’ understand what it is they want. Most of them are worn like old leather gloves. All of them say thank you.

Thank you. I don’t say enough of that.

Thank you.

Saint Brigid poured out her thanks to those around her. I’m excited that her feast day is just around the corner! My wheat arrived and…if my camera isn’t back by then???!!!!

No.

I can be thankful even without a camera. I can try. I WILL try.

What are you thankful for this beautiful January? I bet I could list 1000 things if my fingers could type fast enough. Here are the first few that come to mind…

a full tummy, a healthy family, another spring day full of sunshine, roses in front of me, a hard working and loving husband, laundry drying on the line, flour in the bin, books all around, Christ in my heart, angels in the shadows, a little one who still likes to cuddle, a body that still bends, nasturtiums under the plum tree, the fountain and the finches. Pretty good!

Cheers, everyone… Let’s be thankful together…

My Pop

Three loaves of pumpkin bread–ate one, gave two away (have almost perfected the recipe!)

He’s one of a kind, my dad. This blog is about my giving, but I could never be a bigger giver than my dad. I thought it appropriate to share a bit about him with all of you–we recently drove down to LA, where he and my mom live, and cooked him a five-course Italian dinner. Stop! I wrote “we.” Okay, I did not cook anything!

Start again. We recently drove down to LA, where he and my mom live, and my beloved and very creative and chef-happy husband cooked him a five-course Italian dinner. It was our Christmas present to him… I was the dish sorter and cleaner and the table waitress.

My dad grew up in Venice, CA, was an athlete, and a baker’s son. He had sort of a rough childhood, but instead of carrying on the misery of anger and neglect, he forged a new path. He absolutely loves people, and LoVes to have fun. He’s a born storyteller and exaggerator, he misuses the English language continually, and his very essence is generous.

Scroll back up and look at him! What an outfit. He wanted to dress Italian (he’s actually Basque) so he threw on an old medal, a black bow tie, and a beret. He’s a goof. You could never embarrass him since he’s the one always making ridiculous choices for himself. Here are a few photos of the evening.

My husband and I used to live in Colorado, but moved back to California–leaving a gorgeous Craftsman home that we built near a creek–to be closer to my parents, who are both gems. We sacrificed a lot of material things leaving… But! But! Being near inspiring people is worth more than any beautiful home (it had a whole upstairs for the kids, and a library, and a separate wing for guests, and a really gorgeous bathtub and a half acre with fruit trees and grape vines, and…). But who can learn virtue from a house? Just think of the examples my kids see each time we are with them. Grandparents who get down on their knees to play with the little ones, who look straight into the eyes of the big kids and ask them how they are, grandparents who take them out fishing, who take them out shopping, who take them out walking in the neighborhood to find cats to talk to. Grandparents who pray for them.

You know? I want to be like my dad. I want to enjoy real people more than the characters I find in a book. I want to take the time and effort to bring beauty and laughter to others’ lives. I want to be that kind of person who just can’t judge another…

So, now you’ve been introduced to my dad. Jack. I bet you have people like this in your life–and if you don’t, maybe YOU can become that person. The kind of person that exudes goodness and giving… The kind of person who values others–even broken others.

Cheers, dad! I love you.

The Tale of the Blue Cactus

Two loaves of no-knead sourdough

Mixed: 8:45 pm

Molded: 12: 45 pm next day

Baked: 2:15

The baking was done, the drizzle had passed, and glorious sunshine poured everywhere. Despite the list of inside things to do, I headed out front to pull weeds.

John Ronan joined me and worked on his gardening skills, pruning my beautiful but now fully dead pomegranate tree. I decided that I’d make giving simple, and that the first person walking by who said hello would get the warm sourdough sitting indoors on the kitchen counter. ๐Ÿ™‚

But even though there were plenty of potential-bread getters–folks running, folks walking, folks talking on their cell phones pushing a stroller–no one was in a chatty mood, even though John Ronan cried out “hello” to more than one.

We changed tactics once I had finished weeding the strawberry bed. With the loaf of sourdough in hand, we weaved right (nobody home), we weaved further right (nobody home), we weaved even further right (looked like somebody was home but they didn’t answer), we weaved left (two nobodies home again!) and ended up down the street where an old grandma was straightening up the front porch of her home. (I love this old grandma. She lives with her son’s family, has a European accent, and is often seen calling after a black and white mischievous kitty.)

She recognized us and we immediately struck up a long conversation about her blue cactus on the porch that blooms a beautiful velvety flower, and how she’d found the perfect blue pot just to match… We talked for a long time about that blue cactus while she peeked over and over into the bag to smell the warm loaf of sourdough bread. Simple enough. A bit of galavanting through the neighborhood and a small dose of sharing… How I loved listening to that sweet woman talk about her blue cactus!

So, that was my latest giving. Always a surprise or two to follow in the wake of the baking…

(And speaking of what’s to follow… Photos! My camera went kaput on Christmas Eve–and is being repaired in some faraway land. So, forgive the black and white words… The two photos were taken by my beloved Madeleine…)

What about you? Please share your giving adventures–or your blue cactus stories–or how you can’t believe that we’re weeding our strawberry beds when you’re out shoveling snow from the sidewalk!

Cheers–and happy giving!

Preparing for Saint Brigid’s Feast

Shared a loaf of rosemary bread with a homeless man who attends our church…

In the spirit Saint Brigid and her love for those in distress, I’m asking your prayers for the man I shared my last loaf of bread with, and for my hesitancy to give him more than bread. He could use a new sweater (his has gaping holes in the elbows) and a good shave, and probably a good meal in a warm home. Though giving bread to neighbors and strangers isn’t always easy–it also is a very small commitment on my part. I’m feeling prodded to move a bit deeper–and what a perfect time to do that as the feast day of Saint Brigid draws near!

The wheat is on its wayย and I’m beginning to look toward the eve of January 31st when our family will be weaving Saint Brigid crosses. If you’re interested in weaving a cross at home, I’ve found the wheat from Dale Scott to be extremely easy to work with. I’m not a wheat weaver by ANY stretch of the imagination, but her instructions are simple, and the wheat is clean and smooth and ready to work with… She is currently in the middle of a move from Idaho to Arizona, so shipping may be a tiny bit slower than usual, but there’s still plenty of time to order before the 31st rolls around!

Also there are many tutorials for learning to weave. Last year I posted a video, and along with that post are some written instructions that I found helpful.

Dale also weaves her own Saint Brigid crosses, and I purchased one last year; it is stunning.

If you want to know more about Saint Brigid and her wonderful life, here are some musings about her on my website, and you can also find out more about my children’s book The Life of Saint Brigid: Abbess of Kildare here. She’s worth getting to know.

If you’d like to weave a cross from another material than wheat–it can be done!

So, will you be weaving with me on the eve of 31st?

A New Year–A New List!

Happy New Year, Everyone!

I’m thrilled for this new beginning. We’ve been celebrating these 12 Days of Christmas with lots of dinners with friends, a short holiday away, and time to reflect and simply be quiet. What we didn’t do to usher in the New Year–was throw bread or cake at the front door like we did last year. Last January 1st, we were visiting family in Arizona, and true to the Meyer clan, there was a lot of craziness spinning in all directions. This year, since we were home and in a very relaxed spirit, (and because we didn’t have any bread or cake in the house to throw! ) we sat around on New Year’s Eve and looked and laughed at photos, remembering all the adventures that came our way in 2010. I feel renewed and appreciate the peaceful spirit in which this new year has begun.

Though I haven’t blogged about my baking these last several days, I’ve been busy as ever, mixing up new recipes and finding people to share with. Once I hone the Downeast Maine pumpkin bread recipe, I’ll share that with you, but I won’t be advertising any of the Christmas fruit cakes… Eek. I’m just not a fan of candied fruit or plumped raisins. Are you?

One highlight was a recent afternoon when I had to deliver some paperwork, so I toted along an extra loaf of pumpkin bread as well. I’d intended the bread for a sweet friend, but she had already left for the day–so I happened upon a man–Jorge–and gave it to him. He speaks halting English and lives in some office-like buildings behind a church with his family. His smile and thanks were so genuine that I am still feeling convicted by how very much I take for granted.

And last night I let John Ronan once again choose where to take our extra loaf of French bread. His enthusiasm for running around the neighborhood, knocking on people’s doors is contagious. I’m blessed beyond measure to have his zips and zaps of energy buzzing around me. Giving is so much easier when a child’s open and generous heart is leading the way.

So what’s next? Time for the list!

  • Time to order wheat stalks! Saint Brigid’s feast day is not far off (February 1st), and I’m getting excited about weaving this year’s cross.

  • Time to do a little more 5th Century baking.

  • Time to tell you about a new book to be published!

  • Hoping to share with you how our family eats bread but stays thin ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Hoping to find some sources for locally grown grain…

  • Wanting to hear more of your giving stories

  • Needing to go clean my kitchen!

Wishing you a blessed New Year, filled with peace.

Happy giving, everyone! And I’d love to hear about your hopes for this new year (more lists–love lists!), or stories about giving that have affected you this season…

Cheers!