Latent: of apple muffins and baby blankets


It is, my blogging software informs me, a great many months since I published anything here online. I have officially been quiet since October last year. Which is, coincidentally, almost as long ago as my last ‘summer break’ (a break that extends from April to September is one of the great perks of studying in the Northern Hemisphere – school from September through April does, however, have its low points!). As I emerge from the cocoon of books, scarves, boots and papers that has been my head (and body) space of the last few months, consciousness of things apart from the-very-next-thing-I-must-do has been returning and have found myself looking at a rather old list of ideas for blog posts. However, there is something right about them too. The apple muffins I made and re-made when the trees were heavy with fruit last September I have made again with some, still-frozen, left over fruit in the bottom of the deep freeze (see the recipe below). Apples for muffins ‘in season and out of season’.

It is not apple season now. After an unseasonably cold Vancouver winter, we have been waiting for the clouds of blossom that have finally burst onto our streets for a very long time. Our slow-coming spring has brought yellow daffodils, a rainbow of tulips and a new flock of babies too – I can count six new additions to families connected to our college and church community with at least one more to come along later in summer (not counting those back at home in Australia!). We watched bellies grow, wrote due dates in our calendar and made baby blankets. Now, we watch on as our friends fall in love with these wee ones who have come along to join their families. We too are in awe of the labouring that brought them forth, their tiny limbs, the hours of sleep their new parents are doing without. We try to make dinners for families feeling the way through the fog of odd sleeping routines and the huge responsibility of keeping a new human being alive.

This is the season we are in now. A privileged season of watching on as our friends become parents. A precious season of sunshine after many months of winter. A time to celebrate beginnings and the end of labours past (both physical and academic!).

And so below I am sharing the recipe for apple muffins, out of season but right in time for feeding some families with new arrivals (they make good school snacks too – whether or not your classes are done for the year yet!).

Ingredients:
2 cups of grated raw apple
¼ cup sugar (I used brown but I am pretty sure it would work with white, castor/berry or even coconut)
¼ cup applesauce
¼ cup milk (cows/almond/rice … you choose!)
¼ cup oil (I used avocado this time, something relatively neutral in flavour is ideal)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup wholemeal flour
½ cup quick oats
1 cup plain/all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon

(Approximate amounts of) Extras for topping:
½ cup oats
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp of cinnamon
1-2 tbsp of sugar

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200oC and grease the muffin pan well with butter or oil, a layer of flour over the grease also makes popping them out at the end easier.
2. Gently combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
3. Spread the muffin mixture evenly between the 12 pans, saving about ¼ cup in the bowl.
4. Mix the ‘extra for topping’ ingredients into the remaining mixture and then spread over the tops of the muffins.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or till golden and cooked through.
6. Enjoy!

This recipe is a modified version of one from Diana Linfoot’s Muffin Magic Book.

Material Girl

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I was talking with a friend two Fridays ago about some of the ideas about ‘stuff’ that have been buzzing round my head for the last little while. She has been reading a book I probably would like, The Sacred Year, by Michael Yankoski, and quoted a line that I just loved. To be anti-consumerist, you have to be a materialist. Isn’t that profound? Valuing stuff means, well, valuing stuff! For her, this answered the creeping doubts she had had about the worth of her ongoing efforts to keep a beautiful outdoor dining table safe from the sun and rain. The shine and lift of wood grain cared for is a beautiful thing. Not to throw away something that becomes difficult to care is no less beautiful.

That is my very roundabout introduction to my little ‘material girl’. There is a second hand shop up the road that had a stash of beautiful cotton and linen doilies, table runners and napkins all cotton and linen, hand embroidered or lace edged. I came home with a little treasure trove of them. I barely managed to wait for them to dry before beginning this little doll. As you can see I have guessed and sketched a pattern – so I hope that she works out! So far she is very sweet, with her little butternut squash shaped body and tiny embroidered tummy tattoo. I am not sure why exactly a doll. Perhaps she speaks to my love of the material world (no pun intended!). Perhaps she is a creative, ‘making’ style response to my learning and churning over the ideas of the sacredness of stuff and our embodied lives. Or maybe she is just a pretty distraction from my homework. Maybe, but I would like to think there is more substance to her than that!

Quilt-Maker

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I am almost, almost finished a quilt that I have been working on for the last few years. I began mostly to keep my hands busy while I listened to university lectures and tutorials online. I collected up a number of used business shirts from opportunity shops in different blues and cut squares till I had enough to cover a bed for two. As I snipped and stitched life continued; lectures and lessons passed, our wedding came and went. We moved. We moved again. Slowly it took shape and, motivated by a third move, I am trying to get it finished. Pieced together as we were, it seems right that it comes with us to our new country as a piece of our history, our story. We may just need to cuddle up in something familiar and warm when we are far away.

My stitching reminded me of the Luci Shaw poem called Quilt-maker based on “a prairie woman in [who made quilts] ‘… warm to keep my family from freezing; … [and] beautiful to keep my heart from breaking’” (Shaw 2002, 88). Warmth and beauty, woven, stitched together. Mine is simple, mundane even, but carefully and lovingly put together, kind of like a family.

Quilt-Maker

To keep a husband and five children warm,
she quilts them covers thick as drifts against
the door. Through every fleshy square white threads
needle their almost invisible tracks; her hours
count each small suture that hold together
the raw-cut, uncolored edges of her life.

She pieces each one beautiful and summer bright
to thaw her frozen soul. Under her fingers
the scraps grow to green birds and purple
improbalble leaves; deeper than calico, her mid-winter
mind bursts into flowers. She watches them unfold
between the double stars, the wedding rings.

Shaw, Luci. 2002. “Beauty and the Creative Impulse”. In The Christian Imagination, edited by Leland Ryken. Colorado Springs, CO: Shaw Books.

Shaw, Luci. 1990. Polishing the Petoskey Stone. Shaw Books, 33.