Thursday, June 27, 2013

Life is like bread.

This is not a post detailing my adventures in bread baking. I have baked a lot of bread but I suppose that post is for another day.

Still, this post is about bread. Another kind of bread. Ironically, I had been wondering about when I would post about something other than my adventures in sugar, butter, and eggs. And so here it is.

I emailed a friend recently. It was during a time when I was ambivalent about some situations and decisions. And God being gracious, and my friend being so awesome (and she is awesome, no superfluous statement here), gave me this truth to ponder:

"Don't live for the expectations of others, but rather for the Lord. ... I got a vision just now of rising bread dough - as it expands it will fill every bit of space it can find, whether or not its supposed to. I feel like that is you. You're trying to expand into the spaces people want you to fill in their lives, reaching to be nourishment at the expense of its own stability. Does that make sense? You're nourishing and filling, but just fill the pan you were made for."

Bread bakers have a lot of terms. Bread that rises too much is called over proofed. It makes for a loaf  that collapses when it bakes and is full of holes when it's sliced. (I told you I really had baked bread before, hehe.) It's not that it doesn't taste good. It's still bread. But its holes and small shape make it hard for it to hold anything put on it. The butter and jam seep through every cavernous hole, and its small size means you end up using four slices of bread for that lunchtime sandwich. It takes a lot more over proofed bread to feed someone.

I pondered this for only two seconds when the light fell on my iPhone calendar: I've been running non stop, stretched thin because I haven't had a free day in 7 weeks. I keep giving, saying yes, slipping in one more person or event and...I don't even know what to do with myself any longer. Because that's the other thing: I easily live for others' expectations. Maybe it's an oldest child thing. Maybe it's a sin thing. Maybe it's a Keturah-coping-with-life-in-her-own-strength-and-wisdom thing (which is a sin thing, by the way). Perhaps it's the result of years spent honing over-achieving perfectionist survival skills. I have no idea at present. What I do know is that the weight of others' needs, obligations and expectations, both conscious and unconscious, press on my heart and mind until I am choking with it. It's difficult to see what I should be doing because I can't see my bread pan for all the other pans stacked on the counter. Half the reason I don't know to do is because I'm always doing for others and never taking time to discover and develop the kingdom dreams he has for me. Some would say that is hardly a fault in our self-centered society.

But is it really? If I'm living life and meetings others' needs in my own strength isn't it just a slice of over proofed bread? Jesus said He is the Bread of Life. He came to give us life. Daily. Nothing in this world can give us life apart from him, not even the good Christian things we're all supposed to do to keep the plates spinning and people happy and the world going. Know that if it's not giving life than it is absolutely taking life away.

I'm excited to dream his kingdom dreams and see all he has in store for me. But I won't be able to do that until I clear out some bread pans and start filling the spaces he has called me to. 

What are your spaces to fill and what are his expectations for you? Do you see a lot of holes, are you feeling pressed down and overrun with obligations and "yes" moments?

Love and joy,

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer is for simplicity. And chocolate.

Summer is about celebrating simplicity, family, friends, the outdoors, floaty dresses and sunglasses, endless afternoons of loafing... Since I haven't had a free day in 6 weeks, my summer isn't exactly going swimmingly.

Still, I had a stolen Sunday afternoon to myself (translation: 2 hours) in which time I baked up one of my favorite quick chocolate desserts: flourless brownies. 

It's nothing super special as far as the more elaborate and extravagant desserts go. But for small summer gatherings or solitary Sundays, it suits me well.

And now the special part. 

I was out of ice cream and I knew my solitary moment of bliss deserved dairy. And so, I pulled out my latest favorite thing ever: Noosa Aussie style yoghurt.

{the question is, will this last me more than a week?}

Everyone compares tasty binge-worthy food to the street name for cocaine, "crack." After trying a few of these "crack" recipes and foods, I usually get annoyed. It's good but not so great I would binge or require it for a daily fix. So any recipe with "crack" in it's title is probably hyperbole.

But I have found my crack and it's not an exaggeration. It's name is Noosa Yoghurt. I eat it for breakfast and before bed. Some days I eat it at lunch and in the afternoon too. It's unlike any commercial or homemade yogurt I have ever consumed.

So back to the brownie with yogurt. I took a risk and experimented. The result? Each bite was was sublime, soft, melting, not too heavy - just like a summer evening. Cheesy summer simile aside, I honestly would choose this over ice cream on my brownie any day.

Flourless Brownies
2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate,  ~60-62% cocoa (I often cheat and use Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips, 2 cups)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease 4 ramekins. Pour boiling water into a shallow baking dish.

Melt the chocolate and combine with the melted butter. Stir in the sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Divide the liquid chocolate batter evenly between the ramekins. Place the ramekins in the baking dish with hot water. Place the whole thing on a cookie sheet for ease and slip into the oven. Bake for 35-45 min; don't over bake. A toothpick should still come out wet, but the brownies should be set.

Remove from oven and cool slightly, then remove the ramekins from the water. Serve while warm. I loved these with bourbon pecan praline ice cream. But my new favorite way to eat them is with that Aussie indulgence known as Noosa Yoghurt.

To serve as photographed, top each brownie with a small dollop of sweetened condensed milk, about one tablespoon or less, then smooth on a nice amount of Noosa Yoghurt. I used raspberry flavor.

Eat immediately while lounging in your most comfy summer clothes. Sharing is optional, although highly recommended since eating more than one by yourself may result in sugar coma. You have been warned.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Summer Sewing

Summer sewing is kinda like summer lovin', because I love dresses and summer blouses. But really, I suppose, it's more about neo-sewing. I'm not much of a seamstress. My first blouse was mostly sewn, pinned, tailored, and in all regards, made by my lovely friend Laura. (She also fashioned it into the most luxurious sapphire blue charmeuse silk dress. If you have never worn a real silk charmeuse blouse or dress, you are missing the thrill of your life.) It was a bit ambitious for my first sewing project.

I've knitted, baked, moved to a new dwelling twice, and many other things. Amidst all of that, I haven't really sewn, which is sad considering I own a sewing machine.  I hope to change that for many reasons.

It's true that sewing can sometimes be more expensive when you compare it to a cheap Old Navy t-shirt. When you compare it to a Jason Wu Spring 2011 runway skirt or Luisa Beccaria ready-to-wear dress, the game changes.  

It's everything.I have observed many women who fall prey to the clothes or style wearing them, when it should always be the other way around. The lines, colors, detailing -- those are hallmarks of great taste and style. Sewing something yourself gives you more control of these factors. I have found many great dresses in the wrong color, and just as many dresses in the right color only to have it look like a shapeless sack when worn. There is only so much saving grace offered by belting the waistline.

I don't know if I am a designer. I don't feel I conceptualize things in my mind that way. But do I ever like to create things. I see some marvelous color, resplendent ruching, or a great nipped-in waist and I dream about recreating it in silk and jersey all day long. Sewing is just one more way to satisfy this deep urge.

Being present and connected is really lovely, and it's really what life is about. We live vicariously through television and movies. While this can spark and inspire us, I also believe this has potential to create apathy and boredom, and wastes time given to us for greater things.

Here's my list of "must sews." They are mostly suitable or adaptable for seamstress neophytes. Bingo. Some of these are lovely re-fashion tutorials that involve sewing some fabric to a t-shirt. I consider this nothing short of brilliant. I am not above instant gratification sewing.

The sunny resort blouse {The Sew Convert}
The super easy square top {Cotton & Curls}
Stand and deliver skirt {Cotton & Curls}
DIY turbans {Cotton & Curls}
The peplum top {Cotton & Curls}
Ruched sleeves {Cotton & Curls}
Scoop neck maxi dress {Cotton & Curls}
Grecian sundress {Tanit-Isis}