Doctor in the House?

It was a lovely evening.

Warm. The kids were in good humor, my parents were over for dinner, and my dad and the little one even erected some very bizarre pipe set up that reached into our enormous pine tree…

(proof)

and then my little one went careening into the hall, bashed his head into the corner of a wall, and came out with a whole lotta blood dripping everywhere. John Ronan isn’t one to flinch at pain. He’s a tough little fellow, but this incident had him in tears, and frightened.

It’s gonna be okay, we assured him as we tried to staunch the bleeding. We’ll get you fixed up in no time.

Tears. Grown ups everywhere, my daughter trying to tell John Ronan the specifics (from this years’ biology class–thanks Miss Drake!) about how blood clots–to calm him down (cause he LOVES to know how things work).

At one point when he saw himself, his blond hair now half bright red, he exclaimed, It’s rather cool that my hair is red–now I look like Mom!

Love that boy.

The time came, though, when we had to decide whether it was the ER for stitches or stay home and HOPE for the best. And that’s when we remembered that we have a doctor in the house!

Well, almost. Susie lives just two doors down, but yes!!!, don’t you just love it when a friend is not only a friend, but a doctor, too?!

This is a long story to tell you that neighbors are wonderful, that knowing those around you means you have created community, and that doctors in my neighborhood always end up with loaves of bread on their cutting boards as thanks. Hope she liked the Struan.¬†I’m pretty sure she did ūüôā

And John Ronan got to go five days without washing his hair, which he loved, and is of course!!!!! back to his bouncy self.

Hope you’re well, my friends. Happy Spring.

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.

Zennia

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.

Sophia

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.

Recipe: Struan

From:¬†Brother Juniper’s Bread Book¬†by Peter Reinhart. He researched this harvest bread and attributes it to Scottish bakers, and since I’m part Henderson, I quite like that.

Time Commitment: Hmmm. Cook the brown rice. 20 minutes to mix the dough. 90 minutes to wait for the first rise. 60 minutes to wait for the second rise. 45 minutes to bake. This recipe, though simple, will never make its way into a 20-minute-meal cookbook! My simple guideline is that I can start a bread recipe at around 2pm and have it ready for dinner, but if I begin at 3pm, we’ll be eating it for dessert.

Comments: Delicious. Nutritious, but not at all dense. I especially like this bread because I typically have all of these ingredients in my fridge and pantry. If any of the ingredients below seem strange to you, think about trying it this way first, but adapting recipes is always a part of the fun.

Tools you need:
  • Two loaf pans
  • Cooking spray
  • an oven¬†:)
  • I use an electric mixer with a dough hook for this recipe, but it can be kneaded by hand, and will build mighty muscles if you do.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/3 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/3 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/3 cup bran (wheat or oat–I mix mine together in a bin so mine’s a combo)
  • 1/3 cup corn meal or polenta
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons yeast
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (I have also used soy and it worked just fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups cool water
  • Poppy seeds
What to do:

Step One:¬†Mix all of the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the buttermilk, honey and water. If mixing by machine, get the hook moving and let it mix for about 10 minutes. If working by hand, roll up your sleeves and make sure you have your yoga pants on. Do your best to really beat and push and knead for at least 12 minutes. Don’t worry if the dough remains a bit sticky, but add flour if it’s overly wet and sloggy after you’ve kneaded a long while.

Step Two:¬†Place the dough in an oiled or floured bowl and cover with plate or damp cloth. Allow to rise for about 90 minutes. Since there’s so much yeast in this batch, you’ll know if your yeast is less than perky. The dough should double in size during the 90 minutes.

Step Three: Prepare the two loaf pans. I spray them with canola oil.

Step Four: Turn the dough out of the bowl and divide in two with a sharp knife or dough scraper. Flatten the dough into a rectangle (ish) and fold in thirds, sealing each section with your thumbs, until you have a loaf. (If you don’t know what you’re doing, just pretend you do. Simply move the dough around for a while until it’s in sort of an oval shape :)) Sprinkle tops with poppy seeds.

Place the two dough loaves in a corner, covered by a towel for the second rise (which should total about an hour or a bit less). Make your kids a healthy snack or go dust the living room while you’re waiting.

Step Five: Turn the oven to 350 degrees–about 30 minutes before baking.

Step Six:¬†After 40 or so minutes of rising in the pans, the dough should begin to reach the top edge of the pan. Don’t allow the dough to rise more than an hour in the pans. Pop the two pans into the warm oven and set the timer for 45 minutes. Bake.

Step Seven: Turn the bread onto a cooling rack right away. If it stays in the pan while it cools, it might get soggy. Allow the bread to cool at least for a few minutes before cutting into it.

Step Eight: Give one loaf to the mama of a new baby, and enjoy the other:)


Mrs. H

Two loaves of Struan were cooling on the rack and dinnertime was nearing. It had been a busy day and I was feeling the draw to settle into the evening with my family.

I quickly ran through the list of the new babies in my life and realized that all of them, except one whom I’d already visited, lived clear across town. I really didn’t want to drive. Not then, not during the Christmas rush.

So, I didn’t.

Instead, I toted the hot loaf two minutes away, and dropped it at the home of Mrs. H, where my older son had been hanging out that afternoon.

I felt kinda bad that I’d decided to stay close to home and offer the bread to someone who didn’t have any babies to tend, nourish, or feed. I even thought about not blogging about it…

I got this email the following day.

Oh, Jane, I worked until almost 9 O’clock last night and have to be to work by 8:30 this morning. ¬†I can’t begin to express what a delight it was to wake up to your delicious fresh bread this morning. ¬†Thank you so much, it was such a kind thing for you to send it. ¬†May you be richly blessed for your thoughtfulness.

Giving. Sharing. Just a small something for someone. Let’s keep trying, you and me, and not always be too distracted by whatever our methodical plans are. Sometimes doing what’s practical, even doing what’s simpler, is better in the end.

But it’s not The End, folks.

More giving (and lots more giving to babies) to come!

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!

Cheers.

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!


Mining for Gold

Morning

It was the feast of the angels, and that meant Struan. It was a day that had to be about giving. There have been too many illnesses, dramas and heartaches these last many weeks, that have kept me busier than ever–and focused on the putting out of fires. I was (am) desperately missing the regular routine of reaching out.

Several years ago, when my daughter was five or so, we knew there was a mid-week service at church, but were too busy, too whatever, to even know what we were celebrating. My daughter begged to wear her gold angel wings to church, wings that she had made at school just a few days before. I relented after much begging, and we entered the feast of the holy angels with my daughter already in tune with the day, leading the way as she danced in circles and sang hymns celebrating Saint Michael and his fellow angels.

Children often have knowledge that we would be wise to listen to.

Every night I pray with my littlest one, who will absolutely not head to bed unless he has had triple prayers. My husband typically says the trisagion with him as a start (unless he’s out of town, and then my eldest usually jumps in). I swoop in and say another prayer, thanking God for the day, asking for restful and undisturbed sleep for the night, and John Ronan finishes with prayer number three, said with his eyes wide open and always a smile, entreating the angels to watch over him (among other things!). Triple prayers, every night.

Do you believe in angels?

I do.

Lately I’ve been making my way through Brother Juniper’s Bread Book. Written by Peter Reinhart, a master baker who is also Orthodox, he writes a beautiful explanation of the Scottish tradition of making Struan. It’s a Scottish harvest bread, filled with corn and oats, brown rice and bran. There’s buttermilk and brown sugar and honey…

Midday

Anyway, I had a list of things needing to be done that day–that day of the angels. School, for one. Picking up pine needles. Laundry. Baking Struan, downloading Skype, making a new batch of granola, reading books about angels. I got most of them done. A few of the uncrossed items simply moved to the next day. You know why? It was a feast day! A day to celebrate and learn, and love, and a day to put prayer and feasting in front of errands and domestic dramas.

Rewind

Several days ago I fell into a pit. Piled on top of all the sicknesses came a real live heartache. I haven’t felt angry in a very long time–not real hot anger, but this time I was spinning in circles, my defenses already beaten down by so many other worries and tasks. Prayer. I dipped into prayer, then lunged out, angered again. It was a wild ride. Thank God for the prayers of his saints, for the love of my friends and my priest who reached me and encouraged me to not be so horribly prideful and angry. Anger gets you No Where.

Giving

So, I brought the extra loaf of Struan to a friend who is also in a hard place.

But… when we arrived at church for the akathist, she wasn’t there. Instead, I shared that loaf of Struan with a whole host of everyone. Everyone who was there. So glad I had a way to share. I needed to give. Forgiveness Giving.

Saints All Around

And following on the heals of the feast of the angels was the feast day of Saint Nektarios. What a gift he is–my son was born on November 9th and so we got to celebrate yet again… And all day, when people said Happy Birthday, John Ronan responded this way, “AND, it’s the feast day of Saint Nektarios!”

Saints, birthdays, an ascent from a place of anger to a place of forgiveness. Here are some words I jotted in a notebook last year…

Father sees this time as a time when I can mine some spiritual gold. My body is struggling and God can be my help… Before succumbing to fatigue, ask God for help. Battle it. It will make me stronger in the end. Fatigue, hunger, sorrow–if you can find that place of light, of love and joy in the midst of those trials, then you will indeed strike gold.