Moving, Preaching, and Being Present | weekend reflections v. I

I’ve been trying to find a good format for blogging reflective posts. Sometimes my musings and “what is Amanda doing lately” posts can be incredibly drawn out, or just very boring for all (including myself). But I do think it is important to write these reflections down, and why do I have a blog, if not to write them here?

planning // I am on the cusp of another big move. I’m fairly certain the last one I blogged about was my move from the monastery to the outside world. Now, this transition is moving from the “outside world” to the different bubble that is and will be seminary. I will soon begin classes again, to my great delight. This weekend is the chaos of leaving one place–one last day in the office, one last Sunday on staff at my parish. I have a sermon to finish, bags to pack and an office to clean.

thinking // Obviously I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions (i.e. do they ever end?), but more helpfully, I’ve been writing a lot on community. What is the glue that holds our communities together? What is in our DNA that makes us push for community, for relationships, when there is so much to push us apart? Much of this comes out of my time in a monastic community, which is where I first began writing on this idea. No doubt these upcoming transitions will provide plenty of fodder for this project.

being // I’m constantly fighting to stay present to where I am physically. Times of transition are wonderful things for those of us who are type-A-planning-experts, but it is much harder for me to focus on what I’m called to do/how I am called to be within the 24hrs I am living in. Today, I am called to be present to those I’m working with (even on my last day). Tomorrow, I am called to be present to whatever that day may hold.

creating // As I’ve mentioned above, my creativity has most recently been expressed through writing. I’ve also been making pies for those whose houses I am staying in. (I have managed to perfect my pie crust this summer–if you would like proof, check out my Instagram.) However, I am excited to move into a more permanent space so that I can again engage in other artistic endeavors.

(p.s. flowers from a garden I had the pleasure of watering during part of the summer)

Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake

A few nights ago, I texted my sister, who was scheduled to arrive for a visit the next day. “What do you want me to bake you?” She didn’t text back for a bit, so I began perusing my cupboards for ingredients and scanning the internet for possibilities.

I had no cream cheese and only a little bit of sugar left (what kind of baker am I?), but pulled a pint of slightly-shriveled blueberries and some lemons out of the fridge, and decided to experiment. Now, I’m not normally one for pound cake, but something about the sunny lemon flavor distracts me from the fact that I’m eating an incredibly dense piece of cake. It’s all about balance.

By the time my sister texted me to say that she wanted something with chocolate (she had the nerve to suggest cheesecake. brownies.), I was pouring the cake batter into a pan. However, I can’t really say no to her, so while it was in the oven, I whipped up a batch of chocolate buttercream.

My sister declared this cake spectacular, and I must agree with her. It’s rich, but worth every bite (and ounce of butter). I was unsure about pairing the chocolate frosting with a fruity pound cake, but I now highly recommend it.

I made my buttercream with some hot chocolate mix and melted semi-sweet chips because I didn’t have any cocoa powder. I assume you, a real baker unlike myself, probably have cocoa powder in your cupboard. Either works well.

I also used brown sugar instead of regular sugar (out of necessity, rather than experimentation), but it worked well! It makes the cake a bit heavier, but lends it a nice flavor that compliments the lemon.

Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake

Makes one bundt cake, or two loaf cakes. Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Lemon Cake

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup grated lemon zest (4-6 large lemons)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two loaf pans, or one bundt pan

  2. Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer for 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. (You can also do this by hand, but make sure your butter is soft!) Mix at a medium speed, and add eggs, one at a time, and lemon zest.

  3. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. In another bowl, mix the lemon juice, buttermilk and vanilla. 

  4. Add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture to the butter and sugar mix, alternating between them. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan(s), and smooth the top(s). Bake in oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick comes out clean. 

 

Chocolate Buttercream

Adapted from Add a Pinch.

  • 1 stick butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa ((or hot chocolate mix, if you're like me))
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (melted (OPTIONAL))
  • 3+ cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4+ cup milk
  1. Cream the butter and cocoa together with a mixer, or by hand. Once fluffy, add the vanilla extract. If using, add the melted chocolate chips.

  2. Gradually add the confectioners sugar and milk, alternating between them, and mixing until the frosting reaches the desired consistency. 

White Chocolate Strawberry Challah Bread

 

Well, friends, I’m back to posting recipes again. My replacement camera arrived in the mail this afternoon (which is terribly exciting after being without one for a year), so now I can take pictures of the things I bake!

This summer has been mostly about pie, but the other day, I woke up with the desire to make something with yeast. This, of course, means bread, for those of you who don’t randomly crave the smell of active, bubbling yeast. So my holiday was spent minding a double recipe of challah–a slightly sweet, soft bread traditionally braided into loaves.

I experimented with putting things inside the challah dough. While I can’t say I recommend fresh peaches (they taste amazing, but make the dough too wet to work with), this loaf intertwined with fresh strawberry pieces and white chocolate chips was a big hit! I chose to tuck the chocolate and strawberries into the dough as I was braiding it, but you could also mix them in before the first rise, or before braiding (although if you do the latter, you’ll need to give the gluten in the dough some time to rest before trying to roll it into strands).

You can find the recipe for challah bread at Kitchn (along with a great tutorial for a 6-strand braid!). Simply mix the chocolate and strawberry pieces in at some point (see the last paragraph) before baking.

Currently Reading {2.1}

Do you ever find that your reading habits happen in phases? That’s at least how I read much of the time. While I was at the monastery, I entered a phase of reading nonfiction and essays. In the past, I’ve mostly read fiction for fun, but I think a year of not being in school has begun to warm me to the idea of reading essays in my spare time.

After not reading (much) for a few months, I’ve started at it again with a few rereads from favorite authors. This week, I finished:

The Boggart — Susan Cooper

Cooper is one of my favorite fantasy authors, dating from my childhood experience of reading The Dark is Rising sequence. I reread this series earlier in the year, but couldn’t resist rereading The Boggart. This tale is of three children who inherit a mythical boggart, a prankster who is accidentally sent to Toronto with a load of furniture. The havoc he wreaks in the process of getting back to Scotland is hilarious, and the children’s adventures are both funny and touching. I will always recommend Cooper, even to those of us who are grown-up children.

 

 

The Tuesday Club Murders

As some of you may know, I am an Agatha Christie fanatic. In high school, I set a goal of reading all of her (many) books. I’m not sure I succeeded, but I certainly read quite a few! As a teen, I didn’t appreciate Ms. Marple as much as I liked Poirot, but the former has grown on me with age. The Tuesday Club Murders is a collection of short stories, where Ms. Marple solves a variety of mysteries, most through hearing secondhand stories, and declaring the solution as she counts the stitches of her knitting. Her snark and wisdom never grow old.

 

In addition to these books, I’ve also read a few fantastic articles this week that are worthy of note. This article, from The Huffington Post about millennials’ use of the public library gives me hope in our societal literacy. It also, happily, means that no one can say that millennials are “destroying libraries”. Another good, longer read is this article from Jacobin about the ways that twenty-first century elites still show their dominance in remarkably Victorian ways (oh hey, organic food!).

Happy Friday everyone! I hope your weekend is full of books.