The Eve



We knocked on the door last time, and rang the bell, and no one answered. That time, we left the bread in a bag on the doorstep and hoped for the best.

This time, the door opened and we were ushered in. Molasses bread in a bag, pear/applesauce in a jar with a red ribbon. I walked through to the back of the room, where Nataliya beckoned me and John Ronan shouted out his greetings like he always does, excited to find new friends.

So thin, so changed from her summer self, Nataliya and I talked about her journey from life and health, to the doorstep of death, and how she’s making her way back again. I didn’t want to stay long. John Ronan is not a soft spoken little fellow, and though he was being good, playing with little Nikolai in the next room, I knew that our presence would be fun only for a little while.

So we stayed for that little while.

John Ronan didn’t want to leave, but I have experience enough in that department. But somehow he had convinced Nikolai that he was hungry and needed a snack. “We’re heading straight home, and we have food there,” I told him. But Nataliya and her mom jumped on this opportunity to give to the givers.

“Please, let us give him a little something.”

“Please, mama, I’m hungry.”

“We’re heading straight home, you really don’t need a snack…” That’s what I said. You know the routine… I wanted to be the giver, not the getter.

(I still have so much to learn!)

Eventually, two tangerines were handed over, and a stack of crackers for my little guy. Several of which fell onto the kitchen floor and broke into a thousand pieces just as we were leaving. Thank goodness for good humor.

Well, we made quite an impression, I’m sure.

And it’s good to remember, to let others give when they have the chance.

It’s not always about us…

How a Bread Eater Stays Thin :: The Cupboard’s Bare

So… You all may think that our bread box is always overflowing with bread–with rosemary rolls, and scones, and loaves of molasses bread. And that that extra bread turns into croutons and bread pudding, and bread crumbs. First of all, we don’t have a bread box.

Just a cutting board…

Here’s the truth.

  • We don’t buy bread or bread products at the grocery store. Okay, I take that back. Every now and again we’ll buy a half dozen bagels or a box of crackers, and a few times a year we’ll pick up a baguette to go with a meal because I didn’t have time to bake bread that day. But really, I figure that if we’re going to eat bread, or cookies, or crackers, then I might as well make them. We save money, I have fun, and we skip all the preservatives and calories that come in pre-packaged products.
  • …and, I simply don’t bake all that much. Okay, I did say a few posts back that I baked 240 loaves of bread in 2011. But, I gave away 128 of those, which leaves 112 loaves of bread (or batches of cookies or scones or crackers) that we ate in one year. When you divide that out by 52 weeks, that’s just a bit over two loaves of bread a week, for five people. You can see why my kids are often complaining that there’s nothing to build a sandwich on. When I bake a loaf of bread, everyone gets about two pieces, one for dinner, and perhaps one for toast in the morning. During some seasons I bake more, and others (like during the summer) I bake a little less. The point is, our cupboard is often quite bare!

Baking is awfully fun, but don’t overdo it. Giving away half of what you make helps to keep your portions small. And staying away from the bread aisle at the store is another great aid. Lastly, making breads that have only basic ingredients, with few additives (like honey, or milk, or eggs, or oils) keeps the calorie count at a more reasonable level… Rosemary rolls are so delicious, and have only a bit over 100 calories per roll–whereas that delicious pumpkin bread that I like to make now and again? About 250 calories per slice…

So, there you have it.

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

I know it’s hard to stay away from hot bread, fresh out of the oven–but living on God’s words–now that’s what I want stored up and spilling out of my cupboard!

Banana Bread for Breakfast

(You have to admit, bananas are a lot more fun to look at–and to hoist onto the shoulders of playmobil soldiers–than banana bread…)


My parents have just moved into a new house, in a new town (our town!), after having grown up in one place, the same place that their parents grew up in.  In the last few weeks they’ve cleaned out closets, scrubbed floors, directed movers, signed papers–so many papers–given away gads and gads of things, explained their thoughts to their friends, been begged not to leave, and left all the same.


Here they are. And they will be in flux for a long while, with their new house already under construction, and most of their things in storage. And my dad–all he really wants–is to rush down to the feed shop and buy some chickens.


We had them over for dinner, because it’s important that they eat in the midst of all this flux. And while dinner was cooking, banana bread was baking, because I knew they needed breakfast the next morning and all they had in their makeshift kitchen was grape juice and pickles.

I am extremely excited to live in the same town as my generous parents. They really are the epitome of giving people and there is much that I can learn from them. Since I was 18 I’ve been on the move, living in Europe, and in the Bay Area, and in Colorado. What a treat to have such beautiful people right down the street!

My dad was a baker by trade, so I’ll let you know what he thinks of my bread, since he’ll have more occasions now to try it now. But the banana bread, whether it was good or not, it was fun to send them home to their new rooms, their new house where the chickens will eventually reside, and know that at least they’d have something for breakfast.


How a Bread Eater Stays Thin :: Being Slow

Face it. The evidence is overwhelming. Too many carbs will make you fat. Our country has gone carb and junk food crazy and it’s showing. Even kids these days are struggling with diabetes and over-eating issues.

But you know all this…

With my father as a baker, we always had bread in the house. Fresh bread, every day, came home from those fabulous old brick ovens at 512 Rose Avenue. I bet I ate a sandwich on sourdough bread every day of my elementary school life! I loved salami and yellow mustard best. (Still do!)

Over three posts I’m going to outline a bit how our family, despite the enticement of fresh bread being pulled regularly from the oven, has managed to stay thin.

Quick Disclaimer! I am not a medical doctor. I don’t pretend to be a nutritionist. My only expertise is a lifetime of trying to be Jane.


My husband and I used to own a much bigger home, and spend more money, and drive more miles, and consume many more goods. We were the kind of Americans who helped the people in Washington DC do the Happy Dance. Somewhere along the line we made a few big decisions and moved (from Colorado to Santa Barbara) for a variety of personal reasons. We found ourselves at a time of change, which allowed us to make all sorts of choices about our lives. We set out on a course to live more simply, and slowly, and have been adjusting this past decade, with more changes probably still to come.

I believe that many of these changes have helped us live a happier, healthier life–keeping us fit and thin. Here are a few examples of how choosing slow–over the alternative of fast–has kept us in shape.

Walking Shoes. Well, we wear sandals most of the year, but we chose to buy a home in a neighborhood that is near many services. It is a quarter mile walk to: two food markets; the post office; the hair salon; a bookstore; three coffee shops; dry cleaners, etc… You get the idea. When there’s a choice to walk or drive to pick up those fall pumpkins using the blue wagon, even if it means taking an extra half hour, we walk. And when it’s a bit too far to walk, we (my husband mostly) hops on the bike. Down to the farmer’s market, off to the beach. We’ve even set our big kids free, encouraging them to get places on foot. Three miles to downtown to hang out with their friends. They plan a bit in advance, put on their favorite pair of Vans and off they go.

Muscle Power. In our home we have an assortment of appliances and machines, just like in other homes. A mixer, a vacuum, a waffle maker, a dryer, even a mini food processor. But when it comes to making choices, we typically choose the slow, electricity-free route. We use a push mower on our lawn, we sweep with a broom, we knead our bread by hand, we crush the croutons into bread crumbs using the mortar and pestle, we hang our sheets on the line, we even gave away our microwave. If there’s an opportunity to get fit and do a chore, we choose the muscle-building route. It may take a bit longer, but in the end we’ve saved energy, money, and burned a few calories all in one swoop! Not a bad tradeoff.

Saying No. This is a big one, and something we have to struggle against constantly. We try to live a life that leaves us time to sit and chat with the neighbors. We say no to many extra activities so that we can take a walk after dinner, or go for a hike on a Saturday morning. Sure, my husband is on the parish council at church, and I volunteer at my kids high school often, but we know our limits. Being out every evening at meetings, rushing from place to place changes the way you eat, and live. Suddenly you’re sitting at In n Out, munching down fries and a hamburger. Or drinking too much soda in the afternoon to keep you awake. Or having to drive that quarter mile to the store simply because you don’t have two extra minutes in your schedule.

Eating Together. Though breakfast and lunch are a bit scattered, with most of us on different schedules, we always have dinner together. Every night we set the table, light the candle, prepare a healthy meal and sit around our table, eating, laughing, planning and simply being together. We don’t watch TV and eat. Well, we don’t watch TV at all. We eat our food slowly (most of us, Andrew!), teaching our kids to enjoy a variety of different foods and to enjoy them in company. Dinner is at least an hour long, and later there is herbal tea in the pot.

So, there’s some of what we do to live a life that isn’t flying by at super speed and that helps keep us active and thin, despite fresh enticing loaves of bread. I know many of you live this way too. I’d love to hear your ideas–feel free to add any and all in the comment section below.

Cheers, my friends!

2012–Preparing for the Feast of Saint Brigid

My husband and I are planning a menu for our favorite Irish feast of the year. Thankfully, the eve of Saint Brigid’s feast day, when we do all our cross weaving, falls on a Tuesday! Corned beef and cabbage, (and Irish soda bread) here we come…

Here’s the order of events:

Today! Order the wheat for weaving. For the last several years I’ve been so pleased with the wheat from Dale Scott. I order the starter kits (just $22 including shipping) and that’s all I need to make several crosses. You can also order one of her handmade Saint Brigid crosses. They are lovely…

Soon. Clean the house–especially take down the Christmas cards that line the back wall. (And, put away all the ornaments that are all over the coffee table in the living room. And… finish writing the last of the Christmas cards!) Oh, my.

January 31st. Have a party! Wheat weaving, Irish soda bread, corned beef and cabbage and a wee bit of Irish ale. There are great instructions on how to weave a Saint Brigid cross on this old post of mine.

February 1st. Bake bread and take it out into the community, Saint Brigid style. I’m looking forward to that day…

Note: If you’d like a signed copy of The Life of Saint Brigid to read to your munchkins or to send to some other child, just leave a comment or email me at and I can sign and send you one. They are $15 including shipping if you contact me by the 20th of January. Otherwise, you can buy one from:


Conciliar Press

Or order it from your local bookstore…

Or… you can simply listen to the book on my website–here’s the link to my page. There’s an audio file in the little swirly thing, read by my super favorite British accent friend, and fellow author, Chrissi Hart.

Happy upcoming feast!

2011–Bread Giving in Review

In January:

I baked 31 loaves of bread, giving away 17 of those 31.

I made sweet bread, French bread, sourdough, no-knead, oat cakes, granola, rosemary rolls and pumpkin bread.

Summary: Loved my oven that month.


In February:

I baked 22 loaves of bread, giving away 12 of those 22.

I made French bread, Italian mountain bread, no-knead, molasses bread, rosemary rolls, ugly bread (that’s what my notes said), pumpkin bread and Saint Brigid crosses on February 1st.

Summary: Love Saint Brigid!


In March:

I baked 18 loaves of bread, giving away 8 of those 18 (plus, gave away 10 loaves of bread that my brother lovingly bestowed on me).

I made rye crackers, banana bread, French bread, whole food bread, cheesy no-knead, chocolate shortbread, and lots of molasses bread (our lenten fave).

Summary: Was I beginning to get stingy with my time and my bread? Just sayin’…


In April:

I baked 29 loaves of bread, giving away 21 of those 29.

I made prosphora, French bread, molasses bread, no-knead (some with cheese), cookies, scones, cinnamon rolls, corn muffins, lenten chocolate cupcakes, rosemary rolls and pumpkin bread.

Summary: I was busy! The beauty of Pascha puts one in a very giving mood!


In May:

I baked 31 loaves of bread (just like January!), giving away 16 of those 31.

I made French bread, sourdough, no-knead (some with cheese, some with rosemary), scones, Dutch crunch, molasses bread, lenten chocolate cupcakes, prosphora, rosemary rolls and cinnamon rolls.

Summary: I love May… (and I love Dutch crunch–really need to make that again…)


In June:

I baked 11 loaves of bread, giving away 6 of those 11.

I made biscotti, French bread, sourdough, no-knead with cheese, chocolate chip cookies, rosemary rolls and pumpkin bread.

Summary: Hmmm. Not much playing with dough that month… It was summer, after all.


In July:

I baked 18 loaves of bread, giving away 11 of those 18.

I made prosphora, buttermilk biscuits, rye bread, no-knead, French bread, and rosemary rolls.

Summary: We were mostly on vacation, and the prosphora counted for six loaves! I really wasn’t all that much of a baker’s daughter in July.


In August:

I baked 13 loaves of bread, giving away 5 of those 13.

I made molasses bread, French bread, cheese no-knead, croutons, sourdough with cheese, lenten chocolate cupcakes, rosemary rolls and icky rye.

Summary: Cheese month! I’m still mourning over the icky rye.


In September:

I baked 15 loaves of bread, giving away 6 of those 15.

I made molasses bread, rye crackers, chocolate lenten cupcakes, oreganato, sourdough, and rosemary rolls.

Summary: I really should make rye crackers more often.


In October:

I baked 20 loaves of bread, giving away 11 of those 20.

I made country crumb, no-knead, chocolate chip cookies, molasses cookies, muffins, lemon cakes, French bread with cheese, persimmon cookies and rosemary rolls.

Summary: This was the beginning of a hard time for me, but baking helped me keep my sanity.


In November:

I baked 10 loaves of bread, giving away 3 of those 10.

I made pumpkin bread, rosemary rolls, struan and no-knead.

Summary: It was only with God’s help that I baked this month at all. Those three loaves I gave away were important moments of healing.

In December:

I baked 22 loaves of bread, giving away 12 of those 22.

I made struan, rosemary rolls, French bread, cinnamon rolls, and scones.

Summary: My strength returned and I was back in the baking saddle, visiting baby after baby, basking in the coming of Christmas.


So… that’s 240 loaves baked, and 128 given away. I am typically not a numbers person, but looking at this summary is encouraging to me: To look at a year in review and see many moments of giving–more moments than I would typically make in my every day life if I hadn’t launched this “experiment.” There is still so much room for growth–in the way I spend my time in the kitchen, in the way I give and reach out to those around me. But that’s what the new year is for, isn’t it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

What are your plans for the new year?