Advent Bread Bags

There are several dimensions to this giving thing.

  1. First you have to be inspired.
  2. Then you have to carve out some time.
  3. Next you have to actually do the work–you mix, and mold, and patiently wait, then bake.
  4. And then you consider the recipient.
  5. Next to last you wrap up your goodies.
  6. And finally you walk, or drive or hop over to do the giving.

Phew. It’s a wonder what the human being can do in a single day! By far, I struggle most with the whole “wrap up your goodies” part. My beautiful bread usually ends up in a paper bag, sometimes an already used one that I saved from before.

Well, this season I am spending some extra effort on phase five! I do love fabric, and though I’m a horrible seamstress, I’m also a gutsy happenmaker, so mistakes don’t really deter me. Here’s my Advent bread giving bag, folks. What do you think? (I know, it looks like there’s a lump of coal in there, but really, in person it’s kind of cute!)

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I first thought of this idea after studying a fabric knapsack-style lunch sack I bought in Japantown a few years ago. Japanese are known for their amazing wrappings, and this simple fabric lunch sack was something that one could use again and again. And wash! Here’s a webpage that gives lots of information on different styles and ideas of furoshiki

I sort of thought about trying to take photos and help you sew one yourself. But!!! I am certain I would forget a step, or steer you wrong in some way. I once sewed the sweetest skirt for my daughter and the fabric on the back was upside down. And I left it that way. That explains a lot, I think.

In words, this is what I did. I cut a piece of rectangular fabric–about 11×33 inches. Hemmed all the edges with the machine. Did a bit of fancy folding, and just the right-side sewing, and then there are there these triangles to sew in the corners. Flip things around a bit and do it again, then it’s done! See, I’d be a bad pattern maker. Here is a pattern site that has a bag just like mine…

Anyway, what I love most about these Advent giving bags are the little cards I had made at Tiny Prints. I used one of my bread photos, and included a Celtic blessing on the back.

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So let the giving begin! I’ve sent out three wrapped loaves already–two molasses (one to a mama with a sad heart, one as a thank you, and one to someone under the weather). Here are my supplies:

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And here is the end result, in the hands of a little one, ready to go out the door.

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Not Baking… and Here’s Why

So, if your brother tossed an enormous bag of bread into the front seat of your car, what would you do?

We–pull out the bread knife.

The Kids–eat all the chocolate bread in one fell swoop.

I–make a lot of croutons.

I–give some of it away.

I–make two batches of French toast. (French toast made with old sourdough bread is the BEST!)

I–burn some of the French toast. (See this post.)

I–don’t do a whole lot of baking. Not for five days–maybe more.

And now, the brothers are threatening me with a 50 pound bag of flour sent up on one of their bakery trucks. My answer?

Yes!!!

 

Sourdough Swap

My parents have moved to Santa Barbara and it’s the first time since I was eighteen that I’ve been this blessed to have these two generous and interesting people so nearby!

My mom marvels at the fact that I make jams, sew Dr Seuss shorts, and bake bread, while I marvel at the fact that she can do a crossword puzzle in about five minutes flat. She’s a whiz. The other day, because she says she wants to learn some new hobbies (she’s also taking calligraphy from Carla!), she came over and we tackled another batch of homemade kumquat marmalade together.

Back up. We have a lovely, healthy kumquat tree in our front yard, and some years it fruits like crazy, but this year. ūüė¶ hmmm. Nothing. So, for the second time this season I raided my neighbor’s tree. They don’t like kumquats. (Are they crazy?!!!) And I do.

I set my mom to de-seeding, while I flipped between subtraction problems with John Ronan, the laundry, and chopping cut kumquats. She’s a worker, that mom of mine. Five cups of chopped kumquat later, a cup of local honey and a bit of water and we raced to shut the doors to keep out the bees. Bees seem to know where the honey is, I’ve found, and don’t mind trying to get back that which we sneak from their hives.

I know this because four bees came into my home to inspect the pot last week during Kumquat Marmalade Number One.

Mom sliced, I chopped, and only a little while later we were ladling marmalade into jars and canning them in my big red pot.

Back up even more.

The same day as the marmalade, I baked off the MOST beautiful loaf of sourdough I have ever made. If I didn’t think it was obnoxious, I would have typed all of that in caps. I mean, beautiful. So, as my mom was leaving, after all her hard work of picking out those dastardly seeds from inside a tiny citrine fruit, I offered her my best–my most beautiful. Plus a jar of marmalade. She taught me how to share when I was just a wee one. And here I am, still working on it in her midst.

Cheers to all of you, and I’d love to know what you’ve been either snitching from your neighbor’s tree, or cooking in your big red pot ūüôā

You Can Do it, Sam

Baked a huge, buttery¬†batch of cookies. Shared more than half with lots of 13 year-olds…

Teaching a child to share is a major theme in homes where toddlers scoot about. It’s still something we’re working on with our four year-old–hey, it’s something I’M still working on! Since starting this blog, I’ve tumbled across many picture books for little ones that focus on that all-important theme. Not too long ago, I wrote about¬†The Quiltmaker’s Gift, an exceptional book of ultimate giving that should be in every picture book library. I’ve also posted about Easy as Pie; a tale that is not so much about sharing as it is about the fun of baking good and tasty treats.

Since I’m not only a mama who spends lots of time in book stores and libraries, but also an adorer and writer of children’s books, there will undoubtedly be more posts like this as time goes by. Hope you don’t mind!

You Can Do it, Sam is another sweet story that helps inspire little readers to share.¬†Sam and his mama bear decide one snowy morning to bake twelve small cherry cakes. They measure and stir and bake them in the oven, then head out into the neighborhood to share. Sam’s a little bit nervous about being the one to do the giving.

Mrs. Bear pulled up close to the first sleepy house.

Here we are, Sam. I’ll wait here¬†and YOU take the cake.”

“All by myself?” whispered Sam.

“Go, go, go!” Mrs. Bear put her arm around Sam.¬†“You can do it, Sam.”

Cherry cakes! This book is really fun, and has given me ideas to think about for my own giving. First of all, Mama Bear packages the sweet cherry cakes in bright red bags with little tags that say, “A Tasty Surprise.” I’ve been wanting to come up with a unique way to wrap my bread for giving. I’d like it to be simple, and homemade looking, and not expensive. Right now I simply find some brown paper, or an old gift bag, and hand the bread over that way… I’d love your thoughts…

And…. I know just how Sam feels when he’s nervous about giving away his cakes. I feel each and every time an uncertainty about what I’ll say when the door opens, about whether the folks will actually eat the bread–or will think it’s horrible, poisoned, and just toss it into the trash. Sam has to be brave. You can do it, Sam!

You can do it, Jane!

The Sharing of Pomegranates

One pain a la Suzanne. (Or Sister Bread. Or Jim Lahey’s No Knead Dough with 1/3 cup sour starter–it was sooooo good!)

Mixed: 9:15 pm Monday night

Folded: noon Tuesday

Molded: 12:20 pm

Baked: 2:30 pm

Split with The Pomegranate Lady

There’s this tree along a closed road here in Santa Barbara. I’m not telling which road–pomegranates are serious business with me. So, there’s this tree, the most lovely, inviting, fruit-bearing pomegranate tree I’ve ever tumbled across. And if you know me, I’ve tumbled across many a punica granatum. I hunt them out. I track them down. And I sit, and admire the red fruit from the car; it’s the thing that most tempts me toward thievery.

Every couple of years I get a phone call from my friend (who also adores pomegranates). She says, “The Pomegranate Lady called, Jane, and invited us to pick!”¬† This fruit picking day is one of the highlights of my life.

So, I loaded my kids into the car and met my friend and her three youngest along the roadside where the tree sits. We were greeted by Mary herself, who apologized for not having more fruit. Said this was a lean year. I looked at her tree. There were still more than a dozen juicy red pomegranates dangling from the branches. I looked in the bag. At least a dozen or more there. Oh, yes, lean years from full grown, mature trees, were just fine with me.

As I was about to drive away with my bag and kids bundled into the Volvo, dreaming of pomegranate jam and pomegranate syrup and fresh pomegranate seeds, I noticed the tempting smell of warm bread coming from the back of the car. My pain a la Suzanne had been forgotten in the midst of our picking (and the kids climbing the tree, and throwing Pooh sticks into the slow-moving river.) I had never thought of fresh bread as a good tool for bartering, but today I was relieved that I had something to give in thanks to this very generous woman.

And as I placed the loaf of fresh bread on the porch for Mary to find later, I thought of my own pomegranate tree, which is still just a babe, but will someday tumble into the roadside like Mary’s. And I wondered, when it’s big, if I’ll invite others over and allow them to drive away with bags of my prized fruit. I hope so, I pray so. I’d almost be an Indian-giver if I didn’t…

And what about you, I’d love to hear stories of your neighbors who share… Avocados? Zucchinis? Walnuts? Firewood or compost? What sort of neighborly give-and-take happens in your neck of the woods?