Repeating An Irish Recipe and Blessing

I was perusing my Irish Soda Bread recipe while I ought to have been thinking about a blog post, but then realized I can kill two birds with one stone by sharing the recipe. (Where does that dreadful saying come from? I couldn’t kill one bird with anything!) This is a post from 2012. I hope you won’t mind the repetition.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all!

This is the day to be celebrating all things Irish, sharing shenanigans and wearing green. At least that’s how North Americans seem to celebrate, along with perhaps raising a pint of ale or Guinness. We make more of St. Patrick’s Day here than they do in Ireland.

Since I can’t ignore my Irish roots (I’m a McGuire — from the 13th century Irish MagUidhir in County Fermanagh), I always have to do something special to mark the occasion. Most often it’s just the wearing of a bit o’ green, but my family will vouch for my tendency to doctor normally un-green foods until they turn a shamrock shade – for instance, green porridge for breakfast, or perhaps cereal with green milk, maybe a lunchtime sandwich with green cream cheese filling, or green Jello for dessert.

However, now that our children have moved on and I can no longer embarrass them with such things in their school lunch boxes, I’m more restrained. I’m thinking of making my favourite Irish Soda Bread recipe today. (It’s tame, I know, but then you never can tell if I’ll give in to a leprechaun’s temptation and add a little green colouring to the buttermilk.)

I’m told there are two kinds of soda bread… a cake type that is normally kneaded and baked in an oven, and a farl type that is rolled out into a circle and cut crosswise into four equal quarters to bake on a griddle. While the farl type is apparently preferred more in the north of Ireland where my family originated, and the cake type in the south, my recipe happens to be the cake kind. It’s a little sweeter than the traditional loaf, too, but very tasty. I’ll share it as my St. Paddy’s Day gift to you.

~

IRISH SODA BREAD

4 c. flour
¼ c. white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ c. butter (I’ve used margarine, too)
1-1/3 c. buttermilk
1 egg

Sift dry ingredients together and cut in butter.
Blend in buttermilk, egg and soda to make a dough that can be kneaded.
Turn onto floured board and knead gently until smooth.
Shape into ball, and place in greased 2-qt. casserole.
(You can also bake it on a cookie sheet if you prefer.)
Brush top with egg yolk or cream and slash a deep “+” on it.
Bake @ 350oF oven until done (about 45-60 minutes, or until bottom crust sounds hollow when tapped).
Wrap loaf in tea towel and cool 1 hour before cutting.

~

 Go n-eírí an bóthar leat

~  ~  ~

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A taste of flash fiction

Writers are always writing something. I have another novel in the works, and my long-suffering critique partners have been reading through each chapter as it rolls out of my brain. First drafts aren’t fun to read, believe me, and mine can be especially brutal when I’ve been short on writing and preparation time.

Christmas is always one of those ‘too much to do, and not enough time in which to do it’ kind of seasons. As the date for our working lunch meeting approached earlier this week, I finally had to acknowledge I wasn’t going to have a chapter ready for my peers to critique. So I took pity on them and did a reading instead. It was pretty silly, short and sweet, and nothing like my usual writing…a bit of flash fiction entitled A RUINED RELATIONSHIP, originally written for k.c. dyer’s blog.

In her countdown to Christmas, author k.c. dyer undertook a writing project — twenty-five days of ‘festive flash fiction’. Each day on her blog she presents a short piece — something light and entertaining that usually contains an abundance of a single alphabet letter and doesn’t exceed 250 words. At her invitation to contribute, I chose the letter “R“.

~

rib-roast-festive

A RUINED RELATIONSHIP

Rosslyn bent over, hands on knees, gasping for breath. Running regularly hadn’t rebuilt her stamina as her husband had suggested it would. She wanted to lose weight, to look better for Christmas, so each day she tried to run a few minutes longer, pushing her limits, but she hadn’t yet made it all the way ‘round the block. Half way there and her legs were rubbery…. [If you care to read the rest of my bit of whimsy, I’d be obliged if you’d hop on over to k.c.’s blog, HERE. Many thanks!] 

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Will it be survival of the fittest or of the most diligent seeker?

Nobody’s very happy about it. When a bear and her cub found their way into our back yard last week, I knew it was past time to put away the bird feeders for the summer. But you should see the looks I’ve been getting…

1-Junco

 

Jay

 

Flicker

 

Grosbeak

 

Thrush

Sorry guys, but this lunch counter is closed for the season. There’s lots of nibblies out there, but you’re going to have to find them for yourselves.

 

Squirrel
Ah, c’mon now, it’s not that bad. After all, the one who’s responsible for the sudden closure managed to find an acceptable alternative.

9-BearGrass

If there’s to be any kind of writing application in this, I’d say it has something to do with accepting that there’s no free lunch along the road to publication. We simply have to knuckle down and put in the work ourselves.

 ~

Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.

Genesis 1:29-30

 

He has given food and provision to those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever and imprint it [on His mind].

Psalm 111: 5

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Going Green?

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Leafy greens

Ecologically green

Greenhorn cowboy

Greenstick fracture

Green apples

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No matter what version you favour, come mid-March there’s really no other green except an Irish one. It was St. Patrick’s Day yesterday. I wasn’t particularly innovative, but I wore green, and my visiting daughter baked a batch of green cupcakes for her girls.

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There was a time — my children will vouch for it — when there was green porridge in the morning, green milk and green cream cheese sandwiches in the lunch kits, and probably green mashed potatoes at the dinner table. What can I say? I’m Irish, but in a ridiculously Canadian kind of way.

~

Shamrocks

Blarney Stones

Irish Cream Creme Brulee 

An Irish Wolfhound if you like big dogs

or a Soft-coated Irish Wheaten Terrier if you don’t

Maybe a little Irish Step-dancing

Rainbows and Pots of Gold

A pint of Guinness

Leprechauns

Oh, it wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without leprechauns, mischief and a bit of music! However you spent it, I hope you had a great day.

. .

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This Writer’s Daily Bread (and some baking, too)

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Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one.

(Nikolai Berdyaev)

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Baking is a rarity around here. I haven’t pulled out a recipe book since before Christmas. When my hubby gets desperate for a homemade sweet, often as not he  ends up baking something himself — his peanut butter chocolate chip cookies are wonderful!

My biggest effort is usually a loaf of bread. Admittedly, there’s nothing easier than tossing the ingredients into a bread machine and letting it do its thing overnight so we can wake up to the unbeatable aroma of a fresh baked loaf for breakfast. And yes, I’m sure the texture of a hand-kneaded loaf is finer than what I make, but a little arthritis goes a long way towards discouraging that kind of effort.

I admire those people who can live immersed in their kitchens, loving their interaction with flour, sugar, vanilla and the like. I really do. I wish I were like them. I don’t hate baking, I just seem to have other things I’d rather spend my time on. But Love Inspired author Ruth Logan Herne comes as close as anyone to getting me back to cooking adventures. I first encountered Ruthy on the Seekerville blog. From there I’ve regularly trailed after her and the other Seekerville authors who take turns posting recipes and links on the Yankee Belle Cafe blog. I think it’s their irreverent approach to nutrition, calories and cooking shortcuts that appeals most, but I’ve collected several great-sounding recipes from them. Besides being good cooks, they’re great authors, too. Because of them I’ve been coaxed into reading genres that I never expected to enjoy.

However, this morning I’m not reading. While waiting for another loaf of just-baked homemade-but-by-a-machine bread to cool enough to slice, I am about to tackle a real baking recipe. It didn’t actually come from Ruthy, but was a result of following one of her links. It sounds outrageous, but too fascinating not to try. Cinnamon Roll Sugar Cookies! Who doesn’t love Sugar Cookies and Cinnamon Buns, right? So who can possibly resist the thought of a combined version? It’s enticed me back into the kitchen. I’ll let hubby do a taste test later on today and if they turn out well enough to brag, I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, do you like baking (or cooking in general) as much as you like your other creative pursuits? What’s your favourite thing to bake? And I’ve always wanted to ask… do you nibble as you read and/or write?

~

“People do not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

(Matthew 4:4)

~

UPDATE – When Hubby says, “Can I forego lunch in favour of more of these?” you know these cookies worked out better than okay! I was a little generous with the icing glaze, but nobody ever complains about too much icing.

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The Squirrel Saga Continues (aka Knowing when to quit)

There are times in this life as a writer when I want to toss the manuscript into the trash and stomp away. But I don’t. Not literally, anyway. I’ve been well warned about those moments, so I dutifully ‘save’, ‘close’, ‘quit’, and then stomp away. You know those times, don’t you? Please tell me you do — those write-for-an-hour-and-delete, write-for-another-hour-and-delete-again days when you’ve tried every approach you can think of and nothing works.

Our squirrel was back this morning… the one I mentioned last Friday. My hubby had put up another bird feeder so the bigger birds could more easily access the seed. We figured it would satisfy the squirrel, too. Not so.

Hey, this is new… but the other feeder still looks more intriguing.
If it’s that hard to get at, it must be really good.

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There has to be a way to reach it!

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Whoops!!! I just about hit the ground again!

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Hang on a minute. I’m getting an idea.

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I’ll call in a favour and get her to try. Surely she won’t slide off it like I always do… oops!

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Well, that’s it then. I know when it’s time to call it quits.
Maybe I’ll go look for a pine cone peace offering instead.

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Sheesh! What knuckleheads! All that work and then they discarded this good stuff.

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So no, I’m not going to toss out those hard-won words. But I might need to think them over for a bit… maybe ask a critique partner for advice. Or just give it some time and work on something else. What do you think?

What do you do when nothing seems to be working… when the right words won’t come and the wrong words drive you to exasperation?

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Squirrel! Squirrel!

I sometimes wonder at a squirrel’s mentality. Does he think at all, or simply react to survival needs? The Douglas squirrel is a regular around here… one or two of them come by periodically to investigate the state of our birdfeeder.

BirdfeederLast spring the bears demolished the feeder that had attracted a good variety of birds as well as fed our squirrels, so this winter my hubby replaced it. The one he chose is touted to be squirrel-proof, and for the most part, it is, but it’s almost bird-proof, too. It lacks the surrounding cage that would provide a toe-hold and has much smaller perches, large enough only for chickadees and juncos. They reach into the tiny openings to extract their morsels and there is virtually no spillage for those who normally would forage for leftovers on the ground below.

Was our squirrel deterred? Of course not. He leapt from the railing, only to find nothing to grasp and thus fell back to the deck. He climbed the side of the house and jumped across to the rounded and slippery plastic top. When he reached over the side, he slid off and landed several feet below, on the ground.

squirrel 1

He came via the roof next time. He disappeared briefly into the gutter and reappeared right over the birdfeeder. He leaned precariously out towards it, but it was still out of reach. So he readjusted his position and instead, clinging to the plastic edge of the gutter with his feet, grabbed a chunk of the nearby suet and clambered back into the gutter to enjoy his snack.

squirrel 2

squirrel 3

squirrel 4

There’s a writing application here.

Determination coupled with persistence pays off. You may not always get what you originally hoped for, but if you keep trying, success in a different form may be within reach. Give up and you’ll get nothing.

My ‘One Word’ for 2013 is DETERMINATION. I will be reminded of it every time the squirrel comes to visit!

Have you chosen a special word for this year? What will it take to motivate you when you need renewed effort to reach your goals? 

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You might enjoy this YouTube video. It’s one in a series of four which provide a fascinating study of a very determined (or perhaps just very motivated) squirrel.

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And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap,
if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9
 
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction,
that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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