Sourdough and the VW Van

For several days I’ve been keeping my sourdough active, ready for the right mixing moment. Late Wednesday I decided to get my hands into some dough, and mix a batch of homemade yumminess for Thursday night. If you want sourdough from scratch, you have to think 20 hours ahead.

My arm muscles got a workout and the physical movements cleared my mind and allowed me to shift into prayer. I do love the miracle of making bread.

Fast forward hours and hours and it’s time to score, and bake, and figure out what to do with that extra loaf. I almost posted a facebook status, hoping someone would be in the neighborhood, want to swoop by, and relieve me of a giving adventure. Giving is an adventure–especially when there’s NO plan.

AHA! I thought. Three weeks ago there was a raffle at school, and my little one needed to sell tickets. We scurried door to door, and at one house we met a new family who had recently moved in. I felt awful that our first meeting was all about exchanging $10 bills, so have wanted to bring them a proper Bread Welcome. Here was our chance.

But they weren’t home. At this point, I honestly wanted to return to the house and settle back into introvert world. I prefer weeding over meeting new people.

But we spied a gentleman down the road who was tinkering with the engine of his VW van. John Ronan was at my side, and he bounded down the road, shouting out hellos. I followed with a bagged loaf of bread. (Isn’t it pretty?!!!)

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Twenty minutes later, after a full tour of the VW van, its two sleeping compartments, a peek at the engine, a few stories of trips to Canada and Mexico, some fiddling with the cool cup holders, radio, etc and a last exchange about my daughter who plays piano at all hours and whom the neighbors adore… well, I finally dragged the little one away, promising we’d return another time for another van adventure. We had met a new friend, put a name to a face of a man we’ve been living near for over a dozen years… Once again, this giving proves…

That chatting with neighbors is better than weeding!

That giving is better than just about anything…

Cheers, friends!

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Flab.ber.gas.ted

— flab·ber·gas-ted

affected with sudden and great wonder or surprise; adj.

I just love that word, flabbergasted. The person who made up that word must have been such a character! Just bump it around in your mouth… flabbergasted!

Anywho. I baked up some delicious whole grain sourdough rye last week… during a long business call. The oven would ding, and I’d make sure the callers didn’t need my input. I’d RACE, high speed into the kitchen, twenty miles an hour at least, and tug open that oven door and do what was needed. IN goes the bread, OFF come the pot lids, OUT comes the bread. That phone call just kept going on and on, and I’d say I was productive both on and off the phone!

hee hee

The bread done, and chores needing tending to, I spied my husband out front and brought him that extra loaf of gorgeous bread. Give it away, will you?  He was watering the kale and the favas. I put the bread in a red paper gift bag on the front porch. We just missed the old man with the chihuahua, he relayed back. I shrugged. My husband was a doer and he’d find a good home for that loaf of rye.

From the new bunnies (gotta show you some pictures but my poor —lousy— I’m-calling-it-names-camera is ailing), to the bills, to the dishes, to the Christmas cards (which I just started writing!), I forgot all about the bread giving. But later in the evening I got the story.

Tom, one of our favorite neighbors that we only see now and again, came a walkin’ by, and my husband asked him if he ate bread. (That seems to be my new first question, since so many in our parts are trying to do without wheat.) Tom said yes, and so the bread was snagged from the porch, presented to Tom, and that’s when the word flabbergasted seems to have been uttered. Flabbergasted. Tom was flabbergasted that we would give him a loaf of beautiful bread.

And I’m flabbergasted that we don’t give beautiful bread to one another more often! We should. Why not share in these small ways, with one another, with the folks we know just a little, but could know a little bit more.

Because without today’s giving, the word flabbergasted never would have been uttered. And that would be a shame, I believe.

Cheers to you all!

Advent Alms

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The weather has turned and all of my plants have been drinking in the moisture of the clouds. Rain is always a blessing here in Santa Barbara.

This weather makes me look inward–toward books and tea, toward the oven and the warmth. It’s a good season to plan, to prepare, and to give, isn’t it?

Recent Giving–Story Number One

Right before Thanksgiving I spent the afternoon baking and doing laundry, and working in the wet yard. My husband had taken the whole week off of work, so there were two extra hands on deck. With bread baked by noon, we had lots of time to give before dinnertime rolled around; that’s when we call it a day and sink into being together and try to ward off all thoughts (and happenings!) of carpooling and the such.

Anyway, off my husband walked to gather something from the grocers. Green beans, maybe, or pearl onions. I can’t remember. And with him went a lovely loaf of sourdough–a gift.

But the man standing on the corner–someone we had seen with a sign earlier that day–wasn’t there. He had moved on, so my husband went on a search. And he found a man next to the post office, hanging around, wanting to chat. So they chatted, and the bread was given, and my husband came home with a small and simple, yet significant story to tell. A story of a man by the post office, who was happy to receive a warm loaf of bread.

Story Number Two

Our church serves food to the homeless on a regular basis. This year we have made teams, and I am the Baker (!!!) for Team San Roque. Awesome. It was Monday, and it was cold, and the yeast was moving at its own, it’s-pretty-chilly-so-don’t-rush-me pace. I was patient, but with dinner across town at 4:15 and the final two loaves coming out of the oven at 4pm…. Well, there were folks lined up and ready to eat when I arrived. We quickly sliced up the molasses bread (the best bread ever for these types of events because of it’s full of taste and nutrition), and the hungry ate.

When I tried to take a photo of the event from a far off vantage point a homeless man chastised me and told me that I should get permission from anyone I might capture in the picture. I asked his forgiveness, but then told him that I only had the intention of taking a photo of people’s backs–that I understood that everyone was entitled to their privacy. He still eyed me with suspicion. And I agree. Having a camera at an event like that doesn’t promote an environment of one person connecting to another–it creates distance between people and can even invite harsh or frightened reactions. Next time the camera stays home.

Story Number Three

It was raining–again!!!–we love the rain here– and I went a bit nutty, mixing up double the fun with four loaves of bread rising, waiting, baking. At around dinnertime, with the pain de campagne cooling, I sent my daughter and her boyfriend off to deliver bread to some school acquaintances under an enormous golf umbrella. They walked three blocks there and three blocks back and came home to Asparagus soup.

Advent

We are in the midst of an Advent quest of preparing our hearts for the wonderful coming of Christ.  We are giving lots of bread this season, so I hope you don’t tire of me. Yesterday I finally spent some time gathering greens for our Advent wreath. A bit late, but never too late, is it? I raided my parent’s garden, clipping Acacia and pyracantha, and purchased a new wooden candlestick as a centerpiece.

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Two years ago I spent a bit more time, and created a wreath from our bay tree, pine needles from our Canary Island Pine, and used the berries from our nandina. You can see the post of that Advent wreath here.

But I’d love to hear what you are doing to prepare, and how you’ve been inspired to give. Please share. Please 🙂

And in leaving I give you this–a hymn from the Orthodox nativity service that tumbled across my work desk the other day. It’s even more beautiful when you say it aloud…

What shall we offer You, O Christ,
Who for our sake has appeared on earth as a man?
Every creature which You have made offers You thanks.
The angels offer you a song.
The heavens, their star.
The wise men, their gifts.
The shepherds, their wonder.
The earth, its cave.
The wilderness, the manger.
And we offer You a Virgin Mother.
O Pre-eternal God, have mercy on us!

Friendly

I’ve been wandering through a period of friendly baking/easy sharing. Last year at about this time I was recovering from a spate of struggles and barely making it through each day–so I’ve walked into this season of Autumn 2012, into the new school year and the changes that that brings, with careful steps.

Recent Realization: Unconsciously I’ve been a bit wimpy in my bread sharing. Lots of loaves for friends and neighbors. Some for those with new babies, some for those struggling with grief, but none where I’ve had to really stretch and open myself up to the uncomfortable.

So this is a way of telling myself that it’s okay to take some risks before this trend of friendly bread goes on much longer. Last fall is over; it is a brand new season, and today is wanting to reveal itself without my manipulating it. I sense God wanting to work and I don’t want to side step the many opportunities that may come my way.

So, to recap some sharing endeavors with friendlies this last week:

  • Gave yet another loaf of bread (this one with cheese!) to neighbors that we adore and don’t get to see often enough.
  • Shared bread with my parents, who live way too far from my brothers’ bakery to have the delicious daily fresh loaf that they’re used to.
  • Made muffins and rice crispy treats for the first grade class and the 7-year-old’s marshmallow party. (Happy birthday, John Ronan!!!!)

All very friendly. And so much fun. But I sense the season for stretching is here.

Cheer me on, will you?!

 

 

 

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…

Behind the Hedge, part two

French bread

Two rings of it

All baked and ready to give by 3pm (here’s one of the rolls that ended up on our table)

So, we braved our new neighbor’s front door again. While heading up the walk with our bread gift I reminded John Ronan (for he is my giving buddy as of late) that it’s a lot nicer to just ring the doorbell once and then wait. And if you think the doorbell isn’t really working, then you knock just once, and then wait again. And the sweet boy listened.

After one ring the door flew open and in about two seconds flat we were invited in, introduced, and John Ronan was off to some play land, where I later was implored by one of the three little ones to help save a fish. John Ronan wanted to pet the fish.

They are lovely, this family we’ve heard playing in the yard behind the hedge, and I’m tempted to scold myself for not getting over there earlier in the summer, but that’s just how things worked out this time around. At least we have this next month, before they move. Three playmates!!! About twenty-seven paces away. And a wonderful lawyer mama, who loves bread, who loves people, who loves our city so much she and her husband bought a house and are staying for good.

So, your cheers worked wonderfully. Another loaf of bread that multiplied. A little food and hopefully love passed from my kitchen to anothers’–and in the exchange people connected, stories were told, and a fish was petted.

On days like this, I’d say this humble experiment is working just the way I’d hoped 🙂

Behind the Hedge

This has been the busiest summer on record for the Meyer Family. There are lots of reasons why: college classes but no driver’s license, music making, summer camp, an open door for visitors… So I suppose I have an excuse for not saying hello to the family who has moved into the house behind the hedge. For many years this house, after an expensive and lovely remodel, has stood empty. My big kids got a tour through it once, and that sold them–they fell in love with the place. It has a sweet, fairy tale feel, but the owners live elsewhere and all we saw for months and years were the gardeners.

But squeals from the backyard, little folk riding scooters up and down the driveway, real people inhabiting the place?!

After two months of squeals and inhabitants I finally made my way to their front door with a ring of rosemary rolls. But even with one car in the driveway and one on the street, no one answered.

So, instead, I asked a woman who happened to be traveling down our road if she wanted the bread and she said, yes. So off drove my rosemary rolls with someone other than the intended. That happens in this business, doesn’t it?!!!

Now that I’ve made one effort, I won’t be stopped. I’ll be baking again, and here’s to hoping that someone will come to the front door, that I’ll finally welcome our neighbors as I should have two months ago.

Cheer me on, would you?