Cheered by the Giving

Over baked.

That’s how I felt yesterday afternoon when I came home from a first grade class party and realized I had dough that needed tending. There it stood, looking gorgeous, looking needy and ready for some heat. After two other baking events already that day, I wanted to flee to the hills!

I am just about through with my Christmas giving; the stack of bread bags is getting very short, and good thing! I’m tired of slipping my hands in and out of oven mitts.

Somehow, after grumbling, I mustered the energy to roll out the dough. I heated the oven. I scored and baked those rolls. My husband laughed at me. And armed with rosemary rolls and pumpkin bread,

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I hit the streets!

But no one was home.

And this is where things got good. With no one specific to give to I drove toward people and prayed for guidance. I spotted a woman alone at a bus stop. I pulled in and greeted her; she was all wrapped in scarves and a coat, huddled against the cold. I have extra bread, I said. My friends aren’t home and I want someone to enjoy it while it’s fresh. Pumpkin bread or rosemary rolls? I smiled as convincingly as I could. She took the warm rolls and said in her thick accent: Thank you bery, bery much! Merry Christmas!

And the pumpkin bread traveled home with the guy ringing his Red Cross bell outside the post office. Another connection made, and Christmas cheer exchanged. He was wearing cowboy boots…

The giving was the cure to my grumpiness. Giving seems to be a wonderful cure to many ills and ailments, even for over baked suspects like myself, and I am thankful to be learning these good lessons still.

And today is a new day. For the moment I have resigned from oven mitt duty. Just one day off so I can gather steam and get ready for the Sunday grand finale, when I will fill up the last of my bread bags with goodies and pass out as much good cheer as I am able.

I pray you are finding the balance between sanity and shopping. And if all else fails, just find a way to share something, or your time, or your smile with someone, and all the rest will fall swiftly into its right and perfect place.

Cheers, friends. Cheers!

 

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Christmas Cheer

Two rounds of bread baking in one day…

It’s oven season and mine is humming along (now that I have my new and improved relay board installed!). I’ve been sticking to my experiment, to always bake double of what we need and give half away. Recently I baked two pans of a lenten carrot cake, taking the second pan to church to share with friends. Then I went on a sourdough bread extravaganza, mixing up an enormous batch, which turned out to be a mighty flop. How can you give flopped bread away? It’s hard.

Backing up. I know some of you still don’t believe that last week’s ugly batch of bread was really all that ugly. I told you, the photo just didn’t show all the hideousness. I truly would have offended someone if I’d offered it as a gift.

Well, I did it again. My sourdough loaves came out ghastly.

This is hard for me–to accept that after all these years I can still make such beginner baking mistakes. But being humbled is good. I placed the bread in a beautiful wooden bowl which is the color the bread really should be. And I brought it out into the natural light so that you could really see the pale, icky crust. And I know what I did wrong–I simply had too much water in the mix. My husband thinks the second loaf resembles a portabello mushroom. Here are the photos. Feel free to gasp and be horrified!

I may be many things, but I’m not a quitter. As soon as the ugly sourdough came out of the oven, I mixed up a new batch of French bread, making sure the dough was on the dry side. How pleased I was, several hours later, when those golden loaves greeted me as the oven timer dinged…

Of course, when you’re baking two batches of bread in one day, this all takes time. Time to mix, time to rise, time to bake. Not to mention all the other time-related things I do like reading with John Ronan, cleaning the very dusty living room, washing loads of laundry, algebra with Madeleine and running to the store for hummus…

So, when the second batch of bread came out of the oven at 6:30 pm I wasn’t sure where to take it. Most meals are planned and half way eaten by 6:30 in our neighborhood, but you just have to trust in the Law of Giving.

As we prayed for our own dinner, then sat to enjoy the simple meal my husband had cooked, we discussed who to give the warm (and gorgeous) French bread to.

As I lit the candles around our Advent wreath I was inspired. How about to the only neighbor on our block who has donned her house with Christmas cheer? How about Ashley?

The two littlest and I dashed across the street–and wouldn’t you know? Ashley hadn’t eaten yet, was thrilled to have some warm bread in her hands, plus, John Ronan got to talk to her all about the making of our Advent wreath (and many other things…).

What to do with all that ugly sourdough?

Croutons!

It’s the season of giving. Cheers to you all!

Good Cheer

One petit pain a la Suzanne with an added dose of fontina from Albert Vera’s Italian shop here in LA

Mixed: 8:30 pm Saturday

Folded: 12:40 pm Sunday

Molded: 1 pm

Baked: 3 pm

Gave: to my dad, the baker–and the rest of the gang

My dad is a jolly fellow. If he had a long white beard and were a little larger and more rotund he’d make a fabulous stand-in for Santa. He’s also the king of malapropisms… Just the other day he replaced the word “crouch” for “crotch…” My favorite is when he asked what it was like to sleep on a wonton.

My dad’s silliness is why my husband wanted to be photographed with a loaf of bread on his head. He was being egged on. My dad’s gift of good cheer rubs off–and I wanted to post this photo here, to savor it. Humor is a great healer, a balm that soothes so many tricky or difficult situations. It’s a gift more precious than cheesy bread!

So I’m encouraging you to let down your guard and be silly. To nurture and champion your funny bone this new year…

And here’s a fun quote for you from Oscar Wilde–

Some cause happiness (and good cheer) wherever they go; others whenever they go.