A slice for ordinary and extraordinary time

breastfeeding bars ingredients

After Ignatius was born last September, during the early days cocooning inside as a new family, we were overwhelmed with gifts of food and homemade meals.  Among the generous friends, neighbors, acquaintances and family, 2 lovely friends dropped in for cuddles and brought with them this delicious slice (and recipe) – aptly named Breast Feeding Bars. The recipe came via a sister in Australia and was well loved by all. While I certainly enjoyed a piece or two (or three) in those early breast feeding days, nestled on my yellow feeding chair with a cup of tea in front of Downton Abbey, this slice certainly shouldn’t be limited to those of us who are lactating. I made a fresh batch soon after the first lot was gobbled up and Josh took some along to an early-morning men’s small group where it was decided the title Mechanic’s Friend might make these little treats more palatable to all present.

Muesli Slice/ Breast Feeding Bars /Mechanic’s Friend

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup coconut (shredded or flakes)
1/2 cup wheatgerm
1/2 cup sunflower kernels
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 cup sultanas (raisins)
1/2 cup honey
125g butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
Roast dry ingredients (except for sultanas) in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring for 8-10min or until golden. (Be careful as I found it quite easy to burn the sesame seeds!)
Stir sultanas through.
Meanwhile, on the stove in another pot, bring honey, butter and brown sugar to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer without stirring for 10 mins.
Mix caramel through dry ingredients.
Press into a greased tray (11 x 8 inches) and allow to cool.
Store in fridge for firm bars. Easy peasy.


  • I can’t see why these wouldn’t work with the addition of other nuts (I’ve tried almonds) or seeds so long as the ratio of dry ingredients to caramel was kept the same.
  • For a Gluten Free option wheatgerm can be replaced with psyllium husks (or other, perhaps LSA) and oats with quinoa flakes- I have tried this and it works just fine.
  • Another friend Lisa said that she added a little chunky Himalayan rock salt to the dry ingredients for a lovely saltiness with the sweet. I must try this next time.

Confession: nothing overtly spiritual or any great hidden meaning or truths to this post. Is this allowed? Everything is sacred!? 😉 Ordinary recipes for ordinary time?

yellow chair


The fullness of the mystery

Father in heaven, fifty days have celebrated the fullness
of the mystery of your revealed love.
See your people gathered in prayer, open to receive the Spirit’s flame.
May it come to rest in our hearts
and disperse the divisions of word and tongue.
With one voice and one song
may we praise your name in joy and thanksgiving.


Joshua picked up a second hand copy of The Sunday Missal (published by Collins, London, 1982) around Christmas time last year, and it has become an important part of my weekly devotional life. In case you are wondering like I was at first, (simple-minded, uneducated protestant that I am) a missal is a book containing texts used in the Roman Catholic church throughout the year. As a side note I am also very impressed this edition is ‘approved for use in Australia and New Zealand’.  It takes me about 10-15 minutes to read through the ‘service’ for the day and is always thoroughly worthwhile. It connects me to the liturgical calendar and the prayers and bible readings are beautifully tied together. Lately, on  Sunday morning before we drive ‘to church’ I have been making a cup of coffee and sitting in the sun to drink it while my 8 month old crawls about at my feet. I read the days liturgy aloud to Ignatius between sips, with one eye on the missal and the other keeping a close watch on what goes in to his mouth. Here are two prayers, the first from the Vigil Mass and the second from the Day Mass for Pentecost Sunday. I know I am a week late with this (Pentecost Sunday was the 19th of May and we are now in to Ordinary Time) but lately I’m finding affirmation in the ‘better late than never’ sentiment.

Father of light, from whom every good gift comes,
send your Spirit into our lives
with the power of a mighty wind,
and by the flame of your wisdom
open the horizons of our minds.
Loosen our tongues to sing your praise
in words beyond the power of speech, for without your Spirit
man could never raise his voice in words of peace
or announce the truth that Jesus is Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Photographs are of an art installation my sister and I put together for Pentecost at our church in Brisbane a few years ago.


Lately Jacob, who will be three years old in July, has been making metaphors.  Needless to say, this recent development is music to a poet-mother’s heart.  My favorite so far was when he glimpsed from the back seat of the car the basket of strawberries I was holding as we drove to our picnic spot and announced: “It looks like church windows!”  Which of course, it does.

Church windows


He is Risen

I love that word: Eastertide.  Call it an ever-rising flow of Resurrection.  Or the sudden ebbing of waters too deep for us to handle.  Either way there we are: washed up or set down on soft sands, soaked to the core, breathless, giddy with survival.  I think of the Apostle Peter, bone tired and confounded, back in the old boat after three years away from those hefty nets because he didn’t know what else to do.  Risen?…so…?  And that delirious plunge into the sea to stagger to shore on dawn-tide, to face a new fire fueled by old shame: Do you love me?  Aren’t you one of them?  Lord, you know everything.

There is more: days of appearances, days of Resurrection sitings, Jesus cropping up unexpectedly, splitting open stifling silences, saying Peace.  Peace be with you.  It takes days, weeks, to get a grip, to take it in: He is risen.

For the past few years we have participated in an Easter feast practice of sharing aloud with fellow feasters the way we have seen Christ’s resurrection in our own lives that year…something akin to the Thanksgiving tradition of sharing that which you are thankful for…but more.  The question sends you–it sent me–deep into the dead places, the Friday or Saturday places, the “guess I’ll go back to my boat” places, the places into which I do not yet know how to receive Christ’s words: “Peace be with you,” not to mention muster an answer to his question, “Do you love me?”  This year on Easter Sunday I wept because I felt so stuck…panicked, almost, like the moment you realize you are a very small swimmer in a very large sea, and it is getting the better of you.  I tried to roll onto my back, you might say, breathe through the adrenaline rush of anxiety, let the tide carry me to safer waters.

It is taking every last minute of the season–the fullness of Eastertide–for me to draw near to the Resurrected Christ.  For all his zeal and even though he was one of the first to the empty tomb, it seems Peter hung back in those first encounters with Christ-back-from-the-dead.  I imagine him choking back hope that it might really be true, guarding his roughed-up heart and so terribly aware of himself–of who he didn’t manage to be when his moment of truth came.  Not until that early morning breakfast on the beach, does it sink in: Now, Peter.  Now and not before.  Now is your moment of truth.  Come and have breakfast.  Take.  Eat.  Do you love me?  The tide turns, the ocean floor rises, the answer is ashore.

Forty days of fasting

I lack self-discipline.  I haven’t really exercised since the weather turned cold and rainy in October.  I eat chocolate multiple times daily.  I don’t read the Bible regularly on my own…

So when I heard about my parents’ church signing up to read through the Bible in a year, I decided to sign up for this challenge as well.  Being emailed a passage to read every day would be a great way to stay on track and be reminded of parts of Scripture I haven’t ventured into in years.  Lent also provided another opportunity to practice my self-discipline, which I took up with a mild sacrifice of alcohol for the season.

Three months into the year, and there are numerous unread daily scripture emails in my inbox.  Thirty three days into Lent, and I have feasted more than a few times when offered a glass of wine with dinner or at a friends’ house.

A few weeks ago, I was reading through Exodus 24, where Moses is on Mount Sinai for 40 days until he receives the law from God.  This number 40 struck me, and how it is the number of days Lent lasts… and the number of days Jesus was tempted in the desert for, and how long Noah was in the ark for…

This started a Google search for me, where I learned a bit about the significance of the number 40. I found that it is mentioned 146 times in Bible. (http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/40.html ) I also found out that it might not represent an accurate measurement of time, but a way of indicating that a long time had passed.  As well, the number 40 most often indicates a period of trial or testing.

As I read about Moses being on the mountain for this amount of time, and thought about all of the other 40 day trials that appeared within the Bible, I realized how meaningful it is to observe this 40 day testing that we call Lent. By fasting like Jesus did in the desert, by undergoing this period of trial like Moses, Noah, and many others did throughout the Bible, we place ourselves within the narrative of the Biblical story.  We might be able to walk with Jesus a little bit closer by understanding the trials he went through while in the desert.  We can also feast knowing that we’ve fasted, and our hearts are prepared like the hearts of those who have come before us.

Here’s to fasting and continuing to work on our self-discipline.  May it increase our ability to walk alongside Christ, and place ourselves within the Biblical narrative.

A little Lenten cooking

Lent really snuck up on me this year.  I was busy turning 30, reflecting on that, and then visiting family in Oregon.  While riding the bus from Oregon back home to Vancouver I realized that it was Shrove Tuesday.  Ash Wednesday was filled with settling in again, and since then it has been difficult to enter into the rhythms of Lent with being busy.  Also, being married to someone who is even busier, and living with housemates who are busy as well made it more difficult to follow along with this season of fasting.  In an attempt to at least mark this season I’ve given up alcohol for Lent–a simple sacrifice which has still been challenging to adhere to.

Last week, I turned to my trusty liturgical cookbook–A Continual Feast, by Evelyn Birge Vitz–to mark this season by making a traditional Lenten meal.  According to this book, from the 7th century onwards, Roman Catholics ate no meat, dairy or eggs during the season of Lent.  Among Eastern Orthodox groups, no meat, dairy products, wine, or olive oil were consumed during most days of Lent.  Giving up meat, or foods that came from flesh, was symbolic of the renunciation of the ways of the world.  Lent was called “The Great Fast’, and during this time dairy and meat products were hardly even available in stores.  Hearty vegetables, stews, and fish (especially pickled herring) replaced the meat eaten throughout the rest of the year.  This season of fasting was so much a part of French culture that some cookbooks labeled each recipe maigre (skinny / vegetarian) or gras (fat/ meaty) to show whether the recipe should be cooked during a fast or throughout the rest of the year.

And so, in an attempt to honor Lenten traditions of old, I made two recipes in A Continual Feast.  Both were vegetarian.  The first contains no eggs or dairy.  The second is vegetarian, but still includes some dairy.  I’ve made some alterations to the recipes in the cookbook.

Maltese Almond Cakes 

1/8 cup slivered almonds

3 1/2 cups white flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1+ tsp cinnamon

2 tsp lemon extract

Grated rind or 2 lemons

Grated rind of 2 oranges

About 1 1/2 cups of water

Toast the almonds on a baking sheet for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees.  Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.  Grind one-third of the almonds.

Mix the almonds with the dry ingredients.  Add lemon extract and gradually add enough water to make a stiff dough.  Form the dough into two logs, about 7 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1 inch thick.

Bake for 35 minutes on a greased or flour-coated cookie sheet.

Optional: while they are still warm, brush with honey and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Let the logs cool for about 20 minutes, then cut them into 1/2 inch wide slices with a serrated knife.

And then, enjoy!  I had to eat mine with a cappuccino as soon as it was ready to go.


French Onion Soup

3 1bs of onions

1/4 cup butter

1 L vegetable broth

2 Tbsp brown sugar

2 bay leaves

2 tsp thyme

1/2 cup cooking red wine

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp Worcester sauce

1 loaf of French bread

grated Gruyère/ mozzarella/ swiss/ parmesan cheese

Slice onions thinly.  (If you have a mandolin, this will save you a lot of time.)  Add onions to a large soup pot, with melted butter.  Cook the onions until they are caramelized.  (If you have too many onions, you may want to use a second pot to brown the onions in as well.)  Add brown sugar to the onions at then end their cooking time to bring out their caramel flavour.

Add vegetable broth, wine, Worcester sauce, bay leaves, and thyme to the onions.  Simmer for 10-20 minutes, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, grate the cheese.  Gruyère is most authentic, but if you aren’t able to find it, a combination of parmesan and swiss or mozzarella cheese will do.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place a slice of bread in each oven-proof bowl you will be using.  Scoop some soup into each bowl and top with cheese.  Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.  Turn the oven on to broil for a short time to brown the tops of the soup.



One short sleep past

On a walk around the property that first Sunday in Lent, my 2 1/2 year old son and his grandpa discovered a roughed up hen near the ashy remnants of a burn pile.  Evidently it had been drug from the property of our neighbors to the south by the dogs who belong to our neighbors to the north.  Our property was no man’s land; the chicken was shuddering and gasping for life, if chickens can be said to gasp .  My dad said his first thought was to put the chicken out of its misery, but thought better of it when Jacob showed a keen interest in the dying bird.  The chicken’s hurt, he told Jacob.  The chicken’s really hurt.  We should let it die quietly.


When they returned from their walk around the pond, the chicken was still.  “The chicken’s sleeping!” Jacob announced.  No, my dad told him, no, the chicken isn’t sleeping.  The chicken is dead.  We should dig a hole and bury it.  “Let’s get shovels!” Jacob cried.  Jacob has not yet learned the more solemn occasions for digging; plunging spade to earth is always pure joy for him.

They dug the hole together, and placed the black-feathered hen in it, and replaced the soil.  That’s the chicken’s new home, my dad explained.  The chicken stays in the ground, Jacob.  Sealing the crude grave with ashes, their work was finished.  We should pray, my dad told Jacob, and they did.  Thanking God for the chicken, thanking God that the chicken was in heaven, thanking God that he takes care of all of His creatures.  Jacob was satisfied.

When we returned from town and heard this story, gratitude welled in me to think of my dad wisely improvising a toddler-appropriate lesson in death–and life after death (whatever you may think of animals and souls and heaven).  Later that afternoon, Jacob led Joshua to the site to see what we had missed while I started making dinner.  Within a few days I had nearly forgotten about the chicken, until Jacob and I walked toward the old burn pile and I realized there were an awful lot of feathers strewn about.  He pointed out the grave, and we continued walking.



The following day, we received news that a woman from our church had died suddenly–but peacefully–at home.  But we just saw her!, I wanted to cry.  Are you sure?  She’s sleeping!  And of course these are not the things one says when faced with such news.  On Sunday, I watched our small, elderly congregation surround Bob with compassionate hugs.  “It hasn’t hit yet,” he said again and again.  He took his seat in his usual spot in the second row.  He and Margaret were married for sixty years.

How will we explain Margaret’s death to Jacob when he notices she is not at church?  She has a new home.  How will I explain Margaret’s passing to myself?

Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,

For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,

Die not, poor death…

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more, Death though shalt die.

(John Donne, Holy Sonnet #10)