Growing

I started a garden last week. A real one, not just playing with a few containers. This is a big deal for me. I’ve been making attempts at gardening and failing on different levels, for about 5 years now.

In this process, I have learned about growing things. I’ve also learned how closely related growing fruit and vegetables is to producing fruit in life.

Both of my grandmothers were excellent gardeners, but different types. One had the most beautiful flower gardens, the other had a cellar full of the vegetables she had grown and canned.

It seems to me, those whose flower gardens excel have a knack for detail and precision. They appreciate beauty, and tend to be a bit on the perfectionistic side. With flowers you can pick and prod, transplant and fertilize…you seem to have much more control with a flower garden. Flowers haven’t struggled much in my yard.

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The biggest trait I’ve found in gardeners of the farming variety, is that they’ve learned to let go. They are relaxed, and trust that what will be, will be. Not that you have much of a choice when your sustenance is dependent on things completely out of your control. Farmers, even of the urban variety, seem to have learned that they are not in control.

I think this is why I’ve struggled with urban farming for so long. I wanted to be in control. I tried to plot and plan, mess and fiddle. Some died, others got rot, then there were the dang aphids. It was a stress to me, that I couldn’t control and fix it. Just like with most of life, I’ve learned that I need to be less focused on the result, and more focused on the process.

I used to hate getting dirt under my fingernails. I would try to wear gloves, which were always bulky and awkward on my munchkin hands. This year I embraced the dirt. I actually enjoyed the texture of it in my hands. It reminded me much of cooking, how you never get a real feel for a dough unless you just get in there with your hands. It’s about feeling your way to success. By feeling the dirt I had a better idea of what I needed to do for it.

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After painstakingly filling dozens of little cups with dirt, plopping in teeny tiny seeds and shoveling on more dirt, I enjoyed the gurgle of the hose. Water that rinsed black from under my fingernails and seeped into the ground. Water that cleansed and refreshed. Water that would give life to possibility and potential.

I’m hoping that success in this season of gardening comes from hard fought for lessons in life. All my control and nitpicking doesn’t bring about fruit. The fruit will come when I do the work I’m capable of doing, and then step back and leave the rest up to the one who is capable of doing ALL things. It might flourish, or it may all rot and die, but either way, my messing won’t change what will be. And if my work doesn’t pay off, I’ll know it’s because it wasn’t the season for it. I won’t take failure personal, but will wait for the next season, and try again. Maybe in a different spot, with different seeds, more sun or water, but I won’t quit, I’ll keep pressing on.

We are a process, my garden and I. Both full of potential and hoping to bear much fruit.

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Irish Soda Bread

I have lots of recipes I’ve been wanting to share with y’all. Lots of pictures I’ve taken, all ready to be typed up and posted up here for you to stick away and have, when needed. However, I’ve realized two things:

1. Blogging recipes takes a really long time.

2. I’m not a photographer.

So here is how this is going to go down. I want to share recipes. I don’t have time to set my camera to manual mode, stop every few moments while cooking or baking, snap away, adjust, snap some more, adjust angle and settings, snap some more, upload pictures to computer, edit said pictures and then upload large files to blog and finally write the recipe. Ain’t gonna happen.

What will actually happen, is me taking pictures on iPhone, edit pictures on iPhone (while in carpool line), email pictures to self and save to iPad. Type up blog and insert pictures while more than likely, sitting in carpool line, or at baseball practice. This is manageable. So that’s how it’s going to go down. Will my pictures be perfect and super high resolution? No. But they wouldn’t have been with all those other steps either. I think ultimately this will benefit both of us, my life is easier, you get more recipes. Done. And yes, I like Apple.

Onward. I’m generally not a big fluff holiday sort of person. I consider Valentine’s, Halloween, and St. Patrick’s Day in that category. However, we happen to be Irish. I mean, my last name is Kelly, my mother in laws maiden name is Kennedy, and there is a whole lot of red hair in the family. My side has a good bit of Irish too. So to me, St. Patrick’s day is about more than wearing green, it’s about heritage.

Since culture and food go hand in hand for me, every year I make an Irish meal. We have had corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, all things with Guinness, and this bread. Always, this bread. This year I’ll be making stew with Guinness and my Irish Car Bomb cupcakes (chocolate stout cupcakes with Bailey’s buttercream), and this bread.

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Technically speaking, this bread isn’t exactly Irish. But, I’m American, and aren’t we all about messing with other countries food? Besides, my changes make it really, really good. Plus I serve it with Kerrygold Irish butter, and that makes it all better. If you haven’t tried that stuff, you need to…it will change your bread eating life. You can buy it in bulk at Costco, which I do…because bread isn’t the same without it.

This recipe is super easy, mindless really. I love quick breads for that reason. The hardest part is cutting in the butter. I start with a pastry cutter to do this, but always switch to my hands. It does a better job, and I like the feel and texture of it. If you don’t mind dirtying extra dishes, you could use your food processor for this, it takes all of 30 seconds to pulse in the butter.

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I often don’t have buttermilk on hand, so instead, I use whole milk and fill it up just about a tablespoon from the top of the measuring cup, and add vinegar to fill it. Let it sit a bit and it will curdle and thicken the milk. Add the buttermilk into the dough and mix until just combined (if you go the food processor route be VERY carefully to not over mix it!). The more you mix it, the tougher the dough will be

Here’s the point where I take it a bit off track. I add currants and caraway. This is quite rare in Ireland. Even stateside, most people add raisins. I am a raisin hater, and I had currants laying around from this incredible bourbon currant sauce I make for bread pudding. If you don’t hate raisins, then add those, but the currants are worth a try! Mine were a little dry having sat in the pantry for awhile, so I soaked them in Irish whiskey and warm water for a bit while I whipped up the bread. Whiskey makes everything better, right?

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Mix in the currants and caraway until just incorporated and then shape it into a ball and place in a lightly greased cake pan.

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Get excited, and do a little happy dance, because you are less than an hour away from eating really fantastic bread. Unless you don’t dance over food, and the a maybe just smile a bit while I do the jig.

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After baking for 40 minutes, remove from over and let sit in pan for another 10 minutes. Do something to distract yourself. Do the dishes, check your email, take a walk. Then cut into this incredibly decadent loaf and slather it with butter. The sweet and salty in combination with the caraway….we already ate this loaf all in one sitting and I’m about ready to make up another one. In the name of St. Patrick of course.

Irish Soda Bread

adapted from Bon Apetit

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 TBS sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 TBS chilled butter cut up
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup currants
1 TBS caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 375. Spray cake pan with oil (Trader Joe’s makes spray coconut oil, which I use).

Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter, or hands (or as mentioned above, food processor). Slowly add buttermilk and stir until just combined. Incorporate caraway and currants.

Shape into a ball and place into cake pan. Sprinkle the top with sugar.

Bake 40 minutes, then let rest in pan for another 10. Serve warm or room temperature, with Kerrygold Irish butter.

Lent

I am grateful for the season of lent approaching.

There has been lots of wandering, struggling, realizing hard truths in my life of late.  How fortuitous that the season of lent is upon us.  A time to fall in love with the good news of Christ all over again.  To let it wash over me afresh.

I need to give up to realize how much I need.  To know I can’t do any of it on my own.  To remember how much He gave up.  Lent allows us the space to do that.

The Village Churchs’ lenten guide has some great ideas for the season.  Instead of choosing one thing to give up for the 46 day period, you pick an area per week to focus on.  Food, social media and sleep are a few examples.  I like this approach because it allows me to see my dependency, and distraction in each area.

I also love the idea of feasting at the end of each week.  Such a beautiful reminder that in giving up, we get.  Where we surrender, we find our supply.  Where there is fasting, there will be feasting.  Our offerings are never enough, and yet in Him we always have abundance.

I need to get back to His heart, to the gospel.  I’m desperate for it.  It’s my only hope.  

I want to help teach my kids about breathing in His grace, to help them grasp the depths from which they’ve been pulled.  To rejoice in the resurrection.

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So we enter lent.  

I’ll be using a combination of this Lenten devotional for kids, this reading by Noel Piper that can be used each week during Lent or each day during Holy Week, this Lent guide and devotional from the Village Church that has a great guide for fasting each week, and  Ann Voskamp’s 17 day lenten guide along with her free prints to make an Easter tree. 

Some of these will be for personal use, others for the family.  With the age range we have, it’s nice to mix and match and have something simpler for the little and something more meaty for the big.  I’m trying to not overcomplicate it, so it doesn’t seem like a burden.

Lent is a season of remembering, not a time to earn our way into God’s graces.  

I hope if you’re not familiar with lent, that these resources can be an insight into a tradition centuries old.  That you can spend this season in thought about what Christ has done for you.  How he was tested over and over, tried and found faultless.  The perfect sacrifice, which He willingly gave Himself up as.  He let himself hang on a cross to pay the punishment we deserve.  Then, three days later He conquered death, and our sin and rose victorious!  That as long as I accept Jesus, want Jesus, submit to Him as King, all of my sin is paid for.  I don’t need to get my act together to come to Him, or work for years to make myself better, in this moment, with all my weaknesses, failures, shortcomings, and dirtiness, He loves me.  Accepts me. “O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be!”

I hope in this season, you will once more be captivated with the gospel!