Saint Romanos–Honoring a Patron

Saint Romanos the Melodist, a true Byzantine saint, is the patron of choirs and those hard-working choristers, and his story is layered with sorrow, humility, and joy; if you haven’t heard of him I’m going to share a children’s version with you in about a year. That story is Sweet Song.

His feast day is October 1st–today– and humble muffins offered yesterday at coffee hour seemed appropriate.

Spend this day singing, if you can, in honor of the many many melodies he has brought to us!


Shipped with Love

A box landed on my front porch. Inside was a recipe, a card, and two bags of chocolate chip scones. It was from a reader here, whose heart was touched by the suffering and struggle of Deacon Howard, our dear godfather and friend who recently passed away.

And the scones just happened to arrive on a Saturday morning. Off to vespers they went with me that evening, and as everything seems to have its own particular path, even scones, they landed in the hands of our priest’s wife, who just happened to be having Deacon Howard’s widow over for dinner.

From the hands of a warm and loving friend in Pennsylvania to a grieving community in Santa Barbara–that’s three thousand miles for love to travel, and love doesn’t seem to mind the journey or the miles.

In Process :: The Hidden Garden

Well, there is absolutely nothing in this post about bread. But there is an awful lot of giving, when it comes to the task of writing. There is the gift of time, that my husband affords to me as I build this career. There is the gift of a publisher believing in you. There is the gift of offering a creative piece of work–a part of your own heart and mind–to a reader, and in this case my favorite kind of reader, a small child.

So, a new gift is coming. Just wanted to share the beautiful cover of The Hidden Garden, due out February 1st, 2013. Masha Lobostov is the artist, and the book is currently in production! Such fun.

Three years in the works.. Here it is!

Pain de Campagne

Ever been to France?

Pain de campagne is a staple bread that you will find in all boulangeries around the country. It translates as “country bread” and is typically made with a levain or sourdough starter and both wheat and rye flours. In order to get a nice light, but chewy texture this bread takes a bit of time to complete. I will tackle this sort of recipe on a day when I know I have chores at home and will be present for the various steps along the way.

When I moved to France as a young woman to study languages I came to love this hearty loaf of bread; it wasn’t one that was made in any large quantity in my family’s bakery here in California. Along with the baguette, I remember it being on the table of many homes in which I lived and visited, and I have hoped to duplicate it in my kitchen. It’s like a hearty dose of the good earth, and so good as sandwich bread, in the morning with eggs, or alongside a hearty vegetable soup. Yum!

I have tried a variety of recipes and finally found one that worked for me. Rejoice with me!!! That’s about ten years of trying! If you like to bake, and don’t have this bread book, titled Dough, by Richard Bertinet–then onto the Christmas list it should go. That’s where the recipe is found…

As an aside, this is a horrible representation of pain de campagne. I’m sharing this link because it’s the very first in line when you search for it on google. Good grief. Don’t follow that recipe.

As for the giving! I’ve made three batches now of pain de campagne in the last month and have given three of the six loaves away. One was eaten by a glowing pregnant mama, another went to my son’s first grade teacher, Miss Conway :), and the last ended up in the hands of my parents, who are currently in a long phase of house reconstruction…

Hope you get to France one day to try one of their many amazing breads–but if not, have fun giving this recipe a try. Or come knock on my door and I’ll make you a loaf!

Really, I would love to 🙂

The Gathering of Virtue

Our beloved Deacon Howard George Shannon passed away on Friday, September 21st, while my husband and I were in Seattle, helping my son move into his freshman dorm. We returned home with heavy hearts, yet grateful for so much. His funeral will be this Wednesday at 1pm.

The weekend proved difficult as the sorrow of this time seemed to tug on me, and I found myself unable to be very productive. I swept the floors, and unpacked, and wiped down the counters, then I found myself quiet on the couch, unable to muster much beyond just sitting there. And then I think your prayers all kicked in. A peace settled over me and I found myself filled with joy, and looking forward to celebrating and grieving with my church community.

These days leading up to the service, I’m mindful of Deacon Howard’s legacy of joy. His spirit of giving was infectious and I’m hopeful that some of his goodness has rubbed off on me. I pray so. Over these last several weeks, as he struggled for life, the show of love for this man has been overwhelming. And it’s because he gave us all so much LOVE these last many years–he gave so much of himself–every time, every moment we were together. Always a smile, always a joke and a wink and a chuckle. Always fun and life and the gift of being completely present. And I have this image in my mind of my hands scooping gently up some of the virtue that dwelled in him, that is swirling slowly around us now, here for the taking. A gift from him. A gift to all of us.

And so I’m baking bread, and giving it away, and baking cookies, and sharing them. And I’m so very thankful to have known such a wonderful man…

For Morgan

Some people officially live across the street, but they also feel like they’re one of your own. They pop in when they want. They sometimes are in their pj’s. Sometimes with big grins. Sometimes with frowns and tears. Sometimes they just plop down on your couch and start texting. They are always welcome to just open up the front door and not even knock…

Well, I’m missing one of those someones. She’s busy, and we don’t see her much, except when she’s driving away in that new/old Volvo she just bought. So I baked her an apple cake.

Love you, Morgan! Miss you…

Quick and Yeasty (and quite delicious two days later…)

To yeast, or not to yeast.

Just recently I tried baking up my first batch of quick rolls made with yeast.

So, usually… if I want rolls then I make a batch of hearth bread (flour, water, salt and yeast–just basic) and mold the dough into rolls. Lots of the time I add rosemary, because we’re addicted to rosemary rolls here at the Meyer Casa.

Sometimes I make rolls by using baking powder and butter and eggs and such. There’s a recipe for gruyere rolls in my Crabtree and Evelyn Cookbook that I succumb to now and again.

But never have I baked a batch of quick rising (quick rising typically means lots of yeast,  plus some eggs, and probably butter!!!) rolls made with yeast. Wow! New! Super fantastique! Obviously I still have a lot to learn when it comes to baking…

So, just to be confusing, I posted the photo above, and it does NOT show one roll made with yeast and one roll made with baking powder, or some such other comparisony thing. No, they are both yeasty rolls and the one on the left collapsed. I thought it was hillarious and snapped a shot–with the lovely Lion (which looks like a sun) made by the hand of John Ronan in the background.

You already know–there is a huge difference between a bread product that rises with baking powder and/or soda, and something that is leavened by yeast. Sometimes the difference isn’t immediately apparent, and that’s actually the point. When things are warm, and out of the oven, our senses take over and it’s ALL GOOD!

But later. That’s the difference. A scone that is five hours old, made with baking powder, just isn’t all that tasty. But a roll like the one above, a yeast-leavened roll, kept safe all night in a little cozy basket, then popped into the oven and smothered with homemade plum jam in the morning? I promise you, it’s just as amazing as it was the night before. Maybe better–because there’s green tea too.

So, here’s my basket of yeasty rolls. They were fairly tasty with our dinner, but oh, so amazing in the morning.

And I shared some, just in case you’re thinking that I’m getting a bit off track with my giving (which I do from time to time.) I took several of these very rolls over to friends who were hosting my daughter for homework, and when I was presenting them with my typical explanation I realized that they own a pizza restaurant and that maybe I had picked the wrong folks to give a bread product to.

But later, they said Thanks! And that they liked them!

So, there you have it. Hoping to post the recipe soon to these fun little buns.

And wishing you all good cheer, and happy baking, and thanking you for your continued prayers for our beloved godpapa.

Praying for Godpapa

Just writing the title, I begin again to tear. Just writing Godpapa.

I’m afraid everything is colored sorrow at the moment. We are in the midst of an immense battle for life, through prayer. My son’s Godfather, whom I posted about a few weeks ago, has had an awful turn for the worse. During the recovery, after his surgery, something–many things–went awry, and only a miracle now, today, will bring him home to us. I continue to pray.

My son leaves for Seattle, for a new life and adventure in college in just a few days. He and I made the long trek down the coast of Southern California, through the stop-and-go traffic, to USC’s Keck Hospital to see his godfather. Once there, we scurried up the stairs and entered the ICU where everyone works in hushed tones and monitors beep, and patients are fighting for their lives. I have to say, Deacon Howard’s room, his wife Gail curled into a chair, his daughter massaging his feet, was a haven of love and beauty and even home. We brought a handmade Saint Brigid’s cross, one from this lovely night (Deacon Howard is pictured in one of the photos–he has the most awesome white mustache!), and a bag of  fresh peaches for Gail.

Bless him! I held his hand, and kissed his arm, and rubbed his feet. We prayed, and talked, and my son’s eyes grew redder and redder, and we all cried together, and spoke words of peace. But the sorrow hangs heavy. The doctors were all there–all huddled–all looking beaten and grave. Mother Viktoria was there, too–thank God. Thank God.

Today is the day for a miracle, folks!

And it’s another day for giving thanks.

I’m thankful for: Deacon Howard and Gail, and all the love they’ve showed us as a family, and the special attention they’ve given my son, Andrew. I’m thankful for the people who filled in for me so I could take Andrew to the hospital–picking up the other kids, tending to them, etc… I’m thankful for prayer and the comfort it brings. I’m thankful for a community that bands together like glue when need be; I’m thankful for the fountain and the sunshine outside my office, offering sweet notes of light and encouragement to me today. I’m grateful to all of you who have whispered prayers on Deacon Howard’s behalf. And I’m comforted to know that Heaven is just a wisp away, and that death opens a door to that place where all the saints stand, cheering us along!

I ask your continued prayers…