Baking and blooms

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I have had a growing sense over the past few years that I needed to pay more attention to herbs and spices – particularly to the use of flowers – in cooking. I am always drawn to the variegated dunes of spices in the markets, find myself picking rosemary leaves from the bushes by the gate at my grandparents on my way to the door just to smell them and, this past summer, fell in love with culinary bouquets at the farmer’s markets (posies of edible flowers and herbs, yes please!). I think that it may have something to do with my romantic invocation of old English kitchen gardens, medieval spice caravans and poems about herbs for healing. Scents have stories it seems. Not that long ago I did find a little illustrated cookbook of recipes (the best kind) that revolved around incorporating the diverse flavours of ‘herbs de Provence’ into sweet and savoury dishes. I have also used rose petals to dress cakes a few times this last year – but I have had this sense that there was more than could be done. Even though school work takes up most of my creative energy, these ideas have been simmering away, so to speak, on the back burner in my brain.

All that to say, when my friend Lauren presented ‘Lavender’ as a plant and product in our community group a few weeks ago (presentation complete with lavender scones to sample!), I finally made my first move. After a Wholefoods excursion I was ready to start – I experimented with a butter cake recipe from the Vintage Cakes cookbook – a birthday present from my grandmother. The cake book is a delight and the cakes (one loaf and several-many cup cakes) turned out so well for a first try. I added 3 tablespoons to the classic birthday cake recipe and made vanilla butter cream as the frosting. It was very decadent – but such a treat. All in all, I feel my lavender explorations have only just begun – the cake called for ‘cake flour’ which incorporates some corn starch into the mix – something that I am quite unfamiliar with. I think it makes the grain of the cake quite fine – not necessarily my favourite texture. For now I will count this as an excellent first attempt and will keep exploring the exciting world of herbs, spices and flowers in food. I will keep you posted!

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Going back and starting with Joy

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Some of my recent posts have been good to articulate (see Waiting, Walking and Working 1 & 2, and Ambivalent Consumer), but they took precedence over that which should have come before. They are desperate and true and difficult and so need tempering. Sometimes they end in a good place, but, perhaps, with a better beginning, the journey home may not be so hard. I want to return to a framework of joy so that I can work out the issues of embodiment, eating and clothing in a good place, in the right frame. In God’s story of good Creation and full Redemption. In Christ.

In his book, For the Life of the World, Schmemann insists that “from it’s very beginning Christianity has been the proclamation of joy” (24). In the night, in our fragile, expectant state Luke calls out voicing a strong truth, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). It needs to be my theme verse! Maybe it needs to be yours too! At the other end of his biography of Jesus we see His disciples, beginning to grasp the meaning of that good news “worship[ing] Him and return[ing] to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52).

I think that Schmemann is right. It seems imperative we “recover the meaning of this great joy. We must if possible partake of it, before we discuss anything else – programs and missions, projects and techniques” (24-25). In other words, before we ‘do’ our praxis (or even try and figure out what our practical-lived-out-Christian life might be), we need to know, get, do joy. Maybe it will involve something like the Sons of Korah call us to in Psalm 46:10-11. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress”. The Lord is indeed with us, John affirms, He came and dwelt with us (1:14), loving us before we loved Him (1 John 4:10).

I suspect my natural tendency is always going to be to skip joy and get to the to-do list. I was so relieved to be told this morning reading Schmemann that I was getting it wrong, putting the cart before the horse, so to speak! The cart goes behind the horse because left in front it will not get anywhere and, by extension, will end up no good to anyone. I need the joy that comes from operating out of a right understanding of reality. That there is One who knows all, made all and loves all that He has made. That I am known and loved by Him, the One who brings real fullness of Life. That He is working good and His plans for cosmic wholeness will come to pass.

The list comes later. It is good and beautiful in its time, but only because these illuminating truths come first and inform it.

So, joy first. Even perhaps, little joys that remind me how to do Big Joy. Flowers that “unsettle the room” (thanks Kirk Patston) bringing grace and beauty. Making things. Talking to friends. All these things are deeply sacred, gifts from the Good Giver. Turning to thank Him for them a chance to be caught up into His Truth again, “the only possible joy on earth” (24), as Schmemann says.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:4-8)

Schmemann, Alexander. For the Life of the World. New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1963.

Going ‘home’ – reprise

Today is my Dad’s birthday. I’m sending love and ‘happy birthday’ wishes from afar. We are here, with friends for brunch and a weekend to revel in, and they are there, doing a birthday together. I hope that my recommendation of gelato at Chatswood gets a look in! The photos below are a reminder that I was present there (not here), just a week ago. Two ‘homes’, a number that I am sure will only grow with time, two places to celebrate, to enjoy.

Thanks for having us, Mum and Dad and we hope today is beautiful over there and worth celebrating for lots of reasons! Hope you enjoy this ode to a wintery garden.

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Going ‘home’?

It is tricky now, when I talk about going home. Actually, it is not really tricky, it is just that there is no longer only one ‘home’ – so questions of home are little fraught with complexity and the faintest hint of grief. Once upon a time it was easy – a simple answer to a simple question; “where do you live?”, “Oh, 30 Annangrove”. But not any more. And really, that is okay. In fact, in many ways it is more than okay, it is a very good thing.

It is a pretty blessed thing to belong in more than one place. To have people – family, friends – precious people to love you in more than one town. I am truly rich in this way.

I do fear the difficulties and disadvantages of not always being able to be present with those far away.
I do not enjoy the goodbyes that are a regular and permanent part of life.
I do know that my changing of location from here to there (and back again) remind me that life is always changing (a truth I would perhaps ignore with more success if I did not have to move).
In the thick of the coming and going it is having faith in One who does not change that steadies me.

And so, I am trying to be grateful for the changes (many of which have been very wonderful) – grateful for here, now, and thankful that (over) there they still love me very much.

To holidays at home! Enjoy these pictures taken during the April holidays and shared in anticipation of winter holidays ‘home’ too!

(or at least, they would have been in anticipation had I been a little more organised before the holidays!)

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A little party

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A little friend turned two. We celebrated with tea, tarts, cakes and cookies. A bunting lined room was mirrored in the cake decoration. The party design credits need to go to her lovely (and quite creative) mum – we helped with cooking and I made a little bag as a present. I thought I would share the recipe for the little tarts and some of the pictures from the day. The tarts were based on the Taste.com recipe linked here. I however, made a few changes recommended by other readers. The quantities made enough for 24 mini tartlets.

Ingredients
3 sheets of frozen, sweet short-crust pastry
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup caster sugar
4 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
4 tablespoons lemon juice
100g butter, chopped
finely grated lemon rind, to serve

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Line the muffin cups with frozen short crust pastry. Use a cup/cutter to cut rounds of pastry that fit the tray you are using. Press the pastry rounds into the muffin holes and ‘dock’ (use a fork to make holes in the base of each tartlet).
3. Freeze for 15-20 minutes (till pastry is firm).
4. Make the lemon curd by whisking egg, egg yolk, sugar, lemon rind and juice in a small saucepan with a heavy base. Add butter and place saucepan over a medium heat. Keep whisking till butter is melted through. Keep string till mixture coats the back of a spoon (it can be easier to swap to a wooden spoon to check this after the butter has been mixed in!).
5. Pour into a small bowl allow to cool.
6. Fill the tartlets and sprinkle with some remaining lemon rind.

Settling the room …

Kirk Patston talks about ‘kindness’ in his talk on Ruth from Easter Convention last year. The talk is focused on Ruth and the way she was sacrificially kind in her love for Naomi.  It is a wonderful talk but I was reminded not of Ruth this last week but of another woman he refered to, a woman who enters a room and ‘unsettles’ or disturbs the room with the beauty and scent of a bunch of flowers.

My lovely landlady grew these gorgeous blooms and, while my parents were visiting, her husband gave us a bunch to enjoy. Luscious, full and fragrant they were everything a rose should be. They graced our little living room with their beauty for a time, and sitting observing them, I didn’t find myself unsettled, but rather settled. Surrounded by those who have loved and known me for a long time and those who have only just started loving me.

Kindness is a truly settling thing. It can bring beauty and peace that unsettles, and then perhaps, (later when we accept its somewhat unexpected beauty) settles us. Allowing us to know peace.

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