Godfather

My son’s godfather was recently diagnosed with cancer.

It has been about two months since he began treatment, and the sweet man has kept up his humor and his joyful spirit, but he’s thinner–a lot thinner. I asked him last Sunday about bread–was he eating any and could I make him some?

Jane, he said in his southern accent, if it’s soft, really soft, I’ll try it. I’m willing to try anything right now…

So I literally raced home, baked some molasses bread and zipped it over to his house. Packed with whole wheat, oats, some butter and iron-rich molasses, I told him that if he could stomach it, I’d bake for him whenever he wanted.

And I mean it…

Would you cheer him on with me?

We love you, Deacon Howard!!!

Give–Take–Take–Give

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…

Apples–Indian Summer Style

Two loaves of molasses bread

Brought some on our apple picking adventure to share…

It was hot at Apple Lane Farm in Solvang. Really hot. Look at those sweet red cheeks…

We were picking golden delicious–just love how there’s moss growing on these beautiful trees.

I’ve always wanted to care for an orchard of fruit trees. Anyone have an orchard that needs caring for?

And every tree needs its own St Brigid’s cross nesting in the branches. I made this one from hay while waiting for the picking to get started…

After apple picking, we scuttled over to the gazebo in Solvang and had a picnic. The molasses bread made the rounds.

Did I mention it was HOT? All summer folks complained about the constant fog and cool weather. Well, we’re getting a whole dose of summer packed into just a couple of days. Indian Summer is here and I’ll be sleeping with an ice pack under my knees tonight!

More hot to come–tomorrow I’m going to try baking bread in my car. It’s LIKE an oven in there!!!

Grateful

Two loaves of molasses bread

Mixed: 1:10 pm

Molded: 2:45 pm

Baked: 3:30 pm

Gave one loaf to Jack

I’m enjoying summer. The pace is slow, and the weather is delicious. I’ve been reading (a bit), and writing (a lot), and taking the kids to the beach. We’ve been eating dinner out back, the doors flung wide open, and slowly cleaning the house, emptying drawers and closets at an even and steady pace.

My last effort in giving fit just perfectly with this easy and grateful mood I’m in. The molasses bread was still warm and I could see that Jack, our across-the-street neighbor, who always looks after the house when we’re away, was home. I slid the loaf into a small brown bag, walked across the street and knocked on the door.
“Thanks for all you do, Jack.”

“I don’t do anything!”

“You do, too. Enjoy the bread…”

He smiled, I smiled, and I slowly returned home, marveling at the still-blooming orchids on the front porch.

I don’t know… The simplicity of it all. Of just baking, and giving, and staring at orchid blossoms, and doing it all at a human pace. A pace where you have the time to sit on the porch for a minute before going in  (where five teenagers are devouring the other loaf of molasses bread). I know school is coming again soon, and that I’ll have to shift into second, then third, and even fourth gear at times… But for now, I’m so thankful for the time to really look at what’s around me–the bird chirping on the telephone wire, the fig turning from green to purple, the yeast bubbling in the warm water…

Yes, grateful.

What about you? What sort of slow movements have you noticed in your world this summer?

Recipe–Molasses Bread

From: Soup and Bread by Crescent Dragonwood. They got it from the Rabbit Hill Inn–whose website is here

Time Commitment: Have to be in and out of the house for 4 1/2 hours in order to make these loaves. There’s one hour free time while oats are soaking. Another 1 1/2 hour of free time during first rise. Another 40 minutes during second rise. And another 40 minutes of free time while it’s baking…

I make this recipe often. It’s a hard one not to like…

Tools you need:
  • Two loaf pans
  • Cooking spray
  • an oven 🙂
  • I use an electric mixer for this recipe, but it can be kneaded by hand

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats, quick or not so quick–(I’ve even substituted Earth’s Best mixed grain baby cereal here when I didn’t have any oats in the pantry, but I needed to adjust the water content…)
  • optional 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • water–some boiling and some just warm
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 or more cups of unbleached flour (I usually substitute at least one cup of this with whole wheat)
What to do:

Step One: Pour 2 cups of boiling water over your cup of oats. I make this recipe in my Kitchen-Aid mixer. So, in go the oats, in goes the boiling water, and the butter. Let it sit for an hour while you fold laundry or garden or write a new children’s picture book.

Step Two: Put yeast in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water and allow to mostly dissolve. I’m not so particular about this, but if your yeast is old, this will tell you if it’s still active. Meanwhile, add molasses and salt to the oat mixture. Before you dump your yeast mixture into the oats, make sure the mixture is warm, not hot or you’ll kill the yeast, and that will be a big bummer… Molasses flat bread.

Step Three: Begin adding the flour, one cup at a time. I turn my mixer, with the dough hook to the lowest setting, and  add one cup after another. Once the five cups of flour are mixed in I turn the setting to medium and let the dough hook whir in circles for about 8 or 10 minutes. If the dough is extremely batter-like, I’ll add another 1/2 cup of flour. Sometimes more, depending on the type of flour I’m using. You can knead this dough by hand, but it’s rather sticky. Don’t be tempted to add a ton of flour to get that silky, French bread feeling. It just won’t happen.

Step Four: Transfer the dough from the mixer to an oiled bowl. Cover with a dampened towel. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk–about 1 1/2 hours.

Step Five: Divide the dough into 2 pieces and mold into 2 loaves of bread. You can either make the loaves into boules, or bake them in oiled pans like I do. Cover with the dampened towels. Let rise 40 or so minutes–or until doubled in size.

Step Six: Preheat the oven to 375.  Bake for 40 minutes. Remove loaves from the pans as soon as the bake is finished (or else they’ll get too moist if left in the pans to cool). Allow them to cool on a rack.

Step Seven: Fight off the children.

Step Eight: Give one loaf to a neighbor and eat the other:)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I wouldn’t mind a nice stay at the Rabbit Hill Inn, but, you know, they haven’t yet found my blog and proposed any sort of exciting package for baker’s daughters or children’s book writers. Here’s hoping. Nor have I met Steve Davison, who composed the song, “Bayou Bartholomew Blues.” I think his song fits pretty nicely with my molasses bread. If I ever find out more about him, or am in his neighborhood, I’m going to bake him a loaf–or two. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Bread for Little People

Four loaves of molasses bread (recipe included back at this post)

(I also started a recipe page–see that cute little tab at the top of the page? A link to the molasses bread recipe is there, too)

Mixed: 7:30 am

Molded: 10 am

Baked: 11 am

Gave to twelve children celebrating the beauty of forgiveness

I know that I made this video as a trailer for my book on Saint Brigid, so it’s odd that I’m posting it again here. But, sometimes you make things, write things, say things, and there’s a force bigger than you involved. That’s what popped into my head when I dropped off the bread today–that these children are stuffed with not only their own human gifts and talents, but that they also hold a force of love inside of them that can fling them into the realm of heavenly beauty in the flash of a lightning bolt, and unveil truths that you never knew were sitting inside…

My prayer is that this type of thing happens every time I pick up the pen to write but, oh, so often, too much of me gets in the way.

This video has more than me and my creative energy behind it. Something beyond what I intended snuck inside. Something that blends the power of the holy spirit and the beauty of God’s endless love for children. I marvel at these photos of innocent faces, and since I baked molasses bread for twelve children today–to culminate a spiritual retreat that has spanned many weeks–I thought this video would be the perfect way to share.

Enjoy.

Brothers

Two loaves molassas bread (plus cranberry preserves)

mixed: noon

molded: 1:40 pm

baked: 2:20 pm

gave to: homeless dinner at our church

I grew up in a home of four children: girl-boy-girl-boy. I’m the third, squished between two boys–one six years older than me, the other who toddled just behind. These two boys have helped shape my life in countless ways. I was an indentured yet happy servant to one, and a mini-mother to the other. They are both people you love to be around, one so selfless and silly, the other completely made of charm… And they would do most anything for me. Run to me if I needed saving. Even drag me off on business to France. I love them.

As I watched the line gradually grow at the dinner for the homeless last night, where my basket of molassas bread sat waiting for hungry mouths, I wondered where their brothers were. These men and women, dirty, drunk, so full of hurt. I walked among them, chatted to Dina about learning Greek, signed a floppy leather hat of another who then begged to have his photo taken… Where are their brothers? Where?

I have such love around me, such happy security. Such beauty in the fountain that brings finches to my yard, the scent and space of the ocean just down the road, the smell of bread baking, the sound of my children singing while they play. And I have these brothers who make me laugh. I’m thankful for them, and pray I can be the right kind of sister to them, and maybe even be a sister,

at least for a moment,

to those standing, waiting their turn for my molassas bread.