Sweet Baby Love

Friends from church recently had the most adorable baby, whom I’ve been wanting to hold and rock. BUT, I couldn’t because I was in Reno, and then I was a chauffeur to play rehearsals for days and days. Phew, life has finally slowed and it shows by the three half eaten loaves of bread on my bread board. I’ve been baking.

Here’s a cooling loaf of Struan, and a jar of jam, sent by a friend whom you will hear more about this Saturday. Christine sent this extra jar of jam along to me, all the long way from Alaska, just so she could join in the giving. Giving multiplied! Isn’t that sweet?

John Ronan did the gentlemanly thing and carried the basket for me to the car (plus he dutifully posed, and grinned.)

And here sit the food delights, cuddled into the passenger seat. I like driving around town with homemade bread and jam beside me.

Once we arrived, I rocked and chatted for the sweetest few minutes. The baby was swaddled, and so new, and I stared right into her open and curious eyes.

And tomorrow, I get to bake again. We’ll have church and a soup dinner after the service, and who doesn’t love some molasses bread with their soup?

Sending you all cheery-ness and goodwill. Happy baking, friends.



I wound my way up the mountain with hot bread in the passenger seat. It was a beautiful afternoon, with the sun shining all around, most of the crazed Christmas shoppers miles from me.

The gate opened and I walked up the walk, and through the front door, greeted by a whole host of wonderful Braun people. A grandma, a mama, an aunt and an uncle, brothers… Even a guy cleaning the windows. And there was Zennia, swinging away in her little chair, in the midst of it all–two months old and just hangin’ out.

I didn’t need to rush away, so stayed to chat. The bread was cut–birth stories were shared, laundry was folded. All the while, the sun made its way to the horizon, gave us a show, and Zennia was pulled from her chair and into my arms. (!!!!)

I hope some of that love that was building up in my heart when I was standing there chatting, slipped out of my skin and in through hers. All that beauty floored me, that little person, so perfect, so prepped for growing and learning and loving. Those sorts of moments make Christ live bigger within me, and I’m glad I’ve sought out these little people to hold these last few weeks.

And though giving bread is a fairly lame excuse for being around babies, it has worked! What a great scheme. Truth be told, I’ve gained far more through those few minutes of staring into a set of baby eyes than my measly loaf of Struan could ever offer to others. Thankfully folks don’t seem to mind. Not many exchanges are Even-Steven.

For example, Christ came into this world to save us. He was a baby, too. And what did He ask for in return? In return for real love and peace and joy? He asked for a corner of our hearts. He asked that we might turn and chat with him now and again. He asks for us to acknowledge that he’s not just a fairy tale figure, but a Creator who loves his creation.

Zennia knows all this already. She’s fresh from heaven and I bet the memory of her Creator is still very real, just zooming through her being.

I’m hoping that all this baby love and fresh-from-heaven-stuff will allow me to enter into this feast of Christmas like a child–wide-eyed, full of wonder, knowing that I’m cared for even in the midst of a world that whizzes all around me at super speed. A world that I don’t even get sometimes.

But I get babies.

A huge thanks to Xenia and Zennia, to Sophia and Farley Clementine, to the Rounds baby-to-come, and to every other family whom I barged in on these last few weeks. Sending you all love,

and peace.


Born on November 14th, Sophia is still fresh from heaven. I drove to visit her late last Friday and couldn’t get enough.

It’s really something. I’ve lived long enough now to have watched young kids grow to be adults, and then to become parents. It’s tremendous seeing how time changes so much. How little people grow so large, and can become responsible, and even wise, in just a few years. Little Sophia is the granddaughter of a good friend, and the first born of a sweet young woman, married, and beginning a new life of career and family.

I took them Struan. I plopped it on the counter, and made a beeline for the baby. And she squeaked for me, she squirmed, she chirped and whimpered. She smiled, and then she fell asleep in my lap, her arms raised over her head, her little body so completely relaxed and trusting. I tell you, I didn’t want to go home.

We drank tea, and talked of life and babies. This has all been so healing (visiting and baking for babies), like my cup being filled up with goodness, spilling out the struggles that are now becoming a part of my recent past.

So, the Struan recipe is up! Very yummy. And most of my gifts are wrapped! There are many things still left undone (Christmas cards, more baking, standing in line at the post office :(, and visiting the tax collector!!!), but this season is not for rushing, no matter what anyone says. This season is for hugs and good cheer, for sitting in a chair sipping hot tea and visiting with friends. This season is for walks on the beach, and dressing up in all your winter gear that you never, ever get to wear. This season is for remembering, and butternut squash soup, and lighting Advent candles, and reflecting on why we light them.

Enjoy this season. And if you have to let somethings remain undone (like Christmas cards, which I send out well into February) then so be it!

Cheers, friends.


For two weeks in a row, I’ve stolen little Maria to come and play with me. I figure if I’m going to immerse myself in the real world of babies, then there’s no better way than having one right in my midst.

(She’s not a baby though, being two and all. And I suspect she might not be too happy if I used that label in front of her. So, let’s just keep it a secret, shall we?)

Maria came over to bake. I started Struan earlier in the day so she could take a loaf home, and, together, we made rosemary rolls. She was an expert rosemary de-leafer.

And quite a good kneader.

And coming from a family of musicians, it was natural that she strayed toward the piano and sang, played, and conducted an entire symphony for me after we finished our baking chores.

That was week one.

Week two meant all sorts of book reading, brushing hair, running errands (for more diapers!), eating goldfish, playing the xylophone and the recorder and the harmonica and the handbells, and picking up pine needles. Too busy for photos, can you tell?!!!

Now is the time for little people. If you have any in your life, I’d strongly encourage you to grab hold of one and just inhale all that goodness. They’re busy, it’s true, and they can be stubborn, and super silly, but their hearts–their hearts! Still so tender and loving, and, for me, being called godmama every two minutes just makes these days all the sweeter.

Love you, Maria…

Nicholas, Xenia, and Feeding the Mama

On the feast day of Saint Nicholas, I couldn’t find anything better to do than bake! I know, I could have been dusting, which is needed, or washing the windows, which is also needed, or pulling weeds along the back fence, which is desperately needed, but I baked instead.

Two loaves of Struan, two rings of rosemary rolls, and a pot of herbal tea. In between kneading, I read with my little one, and we worked on penmanship together, and colored in the Curious George coloring book.

And there was music class, and somehow we were able to run two errands and fit in a hike! Good grief, did I wake up at 4am? Some days just don’t get any better.

Anyway, at liturgy I toted in a big paper bag filled with bread. I knew Father Nicholas would be there, and that rosemary rolls would be perfect for his after-liturgy meal–it being his feast day and all! And then one loaf of Struan went to sweet Xenia and her spunky and beloved family, and the other loaf of Struan went to Elizabeth and her parents, who are expecting a new little girl in February. That mama is just beginning to sway a bit when she walks. Don’t you just love that? Really, when I looked around the church Monday night, I could have brought another half dozen loaves. There are new babies all around–and what a treasured time this is to have them all in church, chanting heavenly hymns in their own way…

So, all in all a very good giving day. God seems to be adding to my strength and I’m so thankful that I can be back in the saddle, feeling my old self. I’ll know I’m at full tilt when I dare to rise at 5:30am and do some real concentrated story writing once again, keeping Baker’s Hours.

More babies and families to feed. Bread in the oven as I write!


Merciful; Clementine

I have to say I just love the middle name of this new baby girl. Clementine. The above photo, taken of a single vinca bloom last spring near my home, reminds me of this new baby girl. Clementine means merciful.

Anyway, this visiting babies, and offering bread to their families, is just what I need these days. Last week, I called ahead to make sure it’d be okay to pop by to see this new little one. So with a warm loaf of Struan, I zipped downtown to a charming home, just in time to find the husband perched on a ladder, stringing Christmas lights across the broad porch. Jimmy, the big brother, who is still not all that big–being about two–wanted to help. I had to jump a baby gate to get in the front door. 🙂

Guess what? I got to hold that new little baby for a good while, feeling her warm being in my arms. God knew what He was doing when he designed babies.

I chatted with the mama, who is beautiful and kind, and a tad bit shy. She knows her way around a library, (since she’s a librarian) and authors absolutely adore librarians. I am no exception; they are very wise people. Anyway, it was all just grand, being with that family and their new life. It’s so perfect this kind of baking–as we near the very birth of Christ in just a few weeks!

Any new babies in your lives?

More giving to come, for this is hearty bread weather. And I’ve an adapted Struan recipe to post, too. And I’ve got some signed books to ship. The list is long these days!

Wishing you all sorts of loveliness…

Ekaterina–and the Turning of the Tides

One loaf of Struan.

The family closest to Nataliya also has a new little baby girl. One of the many little girls I was telling you about that has come into our community as of late. This sweet little daughter has twin big brothers, and parents who are so full of love. She’s blessed, to be sure.

Anyway, last week, before the festivities of Thanksgiving arrived, on the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos, I baked. I baked and I cried. It was a whole day of tears. You need to know something about me–this dive into weakness and despair is very odd. I am Basque, which translates to my being stubborn and strong, despite the winds and storms around me. But God has been working desperately hard to tenderize this heart of mine. And I believe I’ve finally surrendered, and hopefully some good, fruitful work has happened within me.

Which is why I just let myself cry the whole of last Monday–sun up to sun down. During liturgy, I have to admit, I was tiring of the tears. I finally toted myself into the Cry Room to be with the babies. Funny–no babies were crying that night, just me.

Anyway, I brought the warm loaf of bread, hoping a baby would be present at liturgy–and there was Ekaterina, snuggled into her mama’s arms, wearing a pink knit cap.

So, I think we’re awfully near the end of depressing posts! The tides have turned and the baking for babies has begun, and I’m all cried out!

And Christ is coming…

And more good news:

Nataliya has been released from the hospital. So far her body has accepted the new liver, and she is weak but eating. Please continue to pray for her. Her kidneys have not recovered from all the trauma, so she’s enduring dialysis three times each week. Join me in offering up enormous prayers of thanks that she’s come this far–and let’s root her on to full health–I’m wondering if she’s tired of crying, too…

Sending you all love and blessings. Advent is here!

Baking for Babies

Within our church community, we’ve had a litany of little baby girls enter the world these last two weeks. Two Xenias, one Farley Clementine, and one Sophia.

Four sweet little things, all come to join us witness the rain, and the sunshine, and to be enfolded in the love and hope that abounds in these families, in this place.

It’s Advent, which means it’s time to prepare our homes, but more importantly, our hearts, for the birth of Christ. It’s not necessarily the time to hang out at the malls and buy ourselves new things, it’s more the time to hang out in front of the altar, and pray, and then go out into this world and do a whole lot of giving.

I’m recovering from maybe the hardest string of five/six weeks ever. Emotionally strained, spiritually attacked, physically drained, psychologically unstable (!!!), I feel that I’ve tipped back onto the brighter path now, back to the healing side where the light is shining at the end of that proverbial tunnel. How beautiful is that light. Prayer is what brought me here. Deep and silent–I made some needed space in my life for a necessary dialogue, and God met me, and was merciful.

Last Lent I pushed my giving and tried to clean out some of those cobwebs in my heart with what I called Forgiveness Giving. This Advent, I’m not ready to tackle anything more than what I already have on my plate, which is why I’m simply going to rejoice in these new babies. I’m going to bake loaves and loaves of Struan, because there’s so much goodness in a harvest loaf of bread packed with nutrients, and I’m going to sit by these new mamas and talk about sweet hands and sweet feet, and revel in the sight of a brand new creation here on earth.

Speaking of which, Christmas is coming. And here are a few of the preparations already underway in our home.

  • I’m reading The Climb, the story of the Tree of Jesse, written by dear Katherine.
  • I’m gathering the necessities for another homemade Advent wreath, which I’ll make and have ready for the table on December 1st.
  • And I’m hoping to make a new Christmas bread–something from somewhere else, in addition to the traditional scones we always make for Christmas breakfast. I’d love suggestions! Please send suggestions 🙂

And thank you for your prayers. I know many have been rooting me on through heartfelt words offered on my behalf. After another week (since my husband is now home after being away for almost a month straight on business!), and a few more hot cups of tea, and a wee bit of baking for babies, I just might return to my spunky old self.

I love this inspiring message that my priest recently sent out to folks in our parish:

The last words of our Lord in the Book of Revelation are, “Surely I am coming quickly,” and St. John’s response is, “Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

Advent reminds us of Christ’s first coming to us, the Son of God becoming the Son of Man for our salvation.  So, might this be our Advent meditation: “Come, Lord Jesus?”

We ask this not only in anticipation of celebrating His Nativity, but in preparing our hearts that He would come to us afresh.  We can make this season an opportunity to make our cave and our manger (our bodies and souls) a fit dwelling for the Lord Almighty.

Perhaps this simple phrase “Come Lord Jesus” can help cut through the extra activities and busyness of this season and help us to heed the prophets’ warning and “prepare the way of the Lord.”

Baby Blessings

Several small loaves of Dutch Crunch given to our hosts (I’ve made this recipe once before and it is delish! Here’s the previous post, which also contains the link to the original recipe.)

Mixed: 1:55 pm

Molded: 3:30

Baked: 4:20

Summer warmth has finally arrived here in Santa Barbara, and even though school is just around the corner, barbecues and outdoor evenings with friends seem to be on everyone’s agendas… Last night was a treat. Good people, yummy food, a fountain, candles burning, and dinner on the patio. But maybe best of all were the babies! My three are getting so big…

I got to goggle at six month old Brigid, both of us laying flat on our tummies; I watched her grin and coo. And… Sebastian brought me a flower! He’s a busy little toddler, who trots from here to there, never walks. A flower! A small purple cluster of pungent lantana picked from the side yard and given with a proud and meaningful gaze straight into my eyes.

He’s the kind of giver…

(one who expects absolutely nothing in return)

worth writing about!