Nesting & Easter Bread

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Nesting. It’s that time of year. Looking out from my kitchen window that is exactly what is going on in my back yard. While the woodpeckers, flickers and crows dodge snow flakes and nosh at the suet feeder it is the blue birds in all their rosy breasted, blue winged beauty that catch my attention.

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Diligently guarding the wooden box nailed to the fence post is the male bird. From the weathered rooftop he easily fends off other birds with a peck and flash of his gorgeous azure feathers. Like a good father he’s fierce, protective and never tires.

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He allows his less colorful partner to fly back and forth with bits of twigs and hay. She is carefully building the nest inside.

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The photographer, Sherb Naulty,  is a high school friend. Click on the link to see his awesome fox photos and do a little shopping.

Building a nest. That is what mother’s do in anticipation of their newborn babies. Not just a crib and rocking chair, but a home that is warm and safe and filled with hopes and love. Every baby is a miracle. I felt that every time I delivered one back in the 80’s at Ft. Bragg army hospital and so looked forward to building my own nest when the time was right. Having one pregnancy end in a miscarriage I have always considered my Caitlin and William my miracles.IMG_9702

So when I came across Rachelle Spencer’s web site I was completely taken in by the simplicity and beauty of her jewelry. Her designs are inspiring and can only come from a mother’s heart. When I asked Rachelle if she would be willing to share her story here she so kindly obliged.

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“My story is so very different from yours and yet I believe we share the same heart … a mother heart that wants the world to remember our children.

I lost 4 babies to early miscarriage during the course of a year. I desperately wanted a child to hold, and every loss was devastating to me. What made it worse was that no one knew about my little ones. I was a mother, but no one wished me a happy Mother’s Day and no one called my angels by name. I did name them. They are Adam, Michael and the twins are Louisa and Lauren.

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from E.E. Cummings’ poem

Rachelle-isms started after I had my rainbows, William and Anna. I made a few nests as Christmas presents in 2013, but I wanted one for myself. Typically nest necklaces are made for moms with beads that represent each child. But what about my children? Should I make a 2 bead nest or a 6 bead nest? Prompted by the anniversary of my twins due date, I offered a giveaway to mothers of loss. I offered any mother who had lost a child the gift of a nest with turquoise beads for living children and white pearls for children no longer living. The giveaway was huge and I had to end it early! And that is really how it all got started. I posted a few necklaces in my shop and my business naturally grew.
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Today I spend most of my time creating custom pieces for my customers. Many of them write to me telling me their stories. They are hard to hear, but between the lines I think so many people are just wanting someone to listen to and understand them. One of my favorite things is receiving the special requests for my designs with a twist added. I am never bored when I make these necklaces and I am always incredibly honored by the stories shared. My aim is always to encourage women to share their stories and heal.
I heard a quote once that I love so much … and I think you will agree: “When a baby is born, a mother’s instinct is to protect the baby. When a baby (or child) dies, a mother’s instinct is to protect its memory.”
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I guess that is what I am doing every day. I make nests for women all around the world honoring their children. I just want the world to know that my little ones lived, that I loved them and that they mattered. Thank you for letting me share my story with your followers, Lisa!”
Rachelle does an annual giveaway starting April 1st. Her twins would have been 4 years old this April. :)….and my William would have been 28. Check out her web site here.

 

Thank you to both Sherb and Rachelle for sharing their talents. I find both their creativity and artistry incredibly inspiring. This recipe is for them and for you. It’s my twisted Italian version of a most traditional sweet bread. I think you get the connection.

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Here is what you need. It all goes into the mixer.

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Let the dough rest and then roll and stretch and loosely twist together into a ring. Let it rest again.IMG_9655

Make a nest by inserting the eggs. Brush with egg yolk and bake.

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Italian Easter Bread

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

1 packet active dry yeast

1-teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon anise seed, toasted, ground

½ cup milk

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon fiori di sicilia or 1 teaspoon vanilla

grated zest of 1 lemon

2 eggs

1 egg, separated

½ cup chopped dried fruit

¼ cup chopped toasted almonds

6 eggs, (dye 5 of them blue)

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice

sprinkles

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle, combine 1-cup flour, sugar, yeast, salt and ground anise. In 1-cup microwave safe measure, combine milk, honey and butter; microwave on HIGH for 45 seconds. Stir well. Mixture should be very warm (125-130F). Stir fiori di sicilia or vanilla into milk. Add milk mixture and lemon zest to dry ingredients; beat for 2 minutes or until mixture is well blended scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add 2 eggs plus 1 egg white; blend well. Change paddle to dough hook. Add remaining flour; beat on medium-low for 6 minutes. Add dried fruit and almonds; mix 2 minutes more. Scrape dough into an oiled bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rest for 90 minutes. On floured surface divide dough in half. Roll each half into a 24-inch rope. On a baking sheet lined with parchment. Twist ropes loosely together and form them into a circle or nest. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest for 1 hour. Heat oven 350F. Insert raw dyed eggs into spaces in twisted dough. Place the white egg in the center. Mix remaining egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water; brush over dough. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and internal temperature is 200F on an instant read thermometer. Cool. Mix powdered sugar and lemon juice; drizzle over bread. Top with sprinkles.

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The eggs bake to hard-boiled and make terrific egg salad-bonus!

 

 

 

From Field to Fork Lessons in Gratitude

growing goodness

growing goodness

Today’s grief lessons are brought to you courtesy of a visit to Manhattan, KS (aka-Man-Happiness) and the 2015 National Festival of Breads sponsored by among others Kansas Wheat, King Arthur Flour and Red Star Yeast. It was a whirlwind of activity for us 8 bread baking finalists starting with an educational farm to flour tour of the area.

best stuff on earth

best stuff on earth

It was fascinating to spend the day in the life of the Kejr family. I have a whole new appreciation for how hard wheat farmers work and how dedicated they are to grow quality grain to not only feed people like you and me, but people all over the world. Did you know that 50% of the wheat we grow is exported? Wheat farmers feed the world and as well-educated scientists have invested in themselves to develop better crops with less impact on the environment.

what beautiful country

what beautiful country

From the farm we followed the wheat trail to a grain elevator operation where the wheat is stored and then on to the flour mill where 30-inch granite wheels grind the wheat and fill the bags that we so conveniently pluck off our grocery store shelves.

mill stone

mill stone

Did you know that King Arthur Flour bags are coded so that the flour can actually be traced back to the individual farm where the wheat was grown? Yeah-me neither, but we know now and isn’t that amazing? So much care and quality goes into each and every bag. Our final stop of the tour was the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center where we witnessed wheat science in action and the gorgeous kitchen (yes, I have kitchen envy) where our recipes were tested.

use quality ingredients to make tasty winning recipes

use quality ingredients to make tasty winning recipes

Competitors start your ovens. Every bake-off I learn something new and this one is no exception. I am so very grateful to have Ann Domsch as my hostess and baking assistant. Ann is “my rock” as a fumble through my first attempt at baking my bread. She supports me and encourages me on. With every visitor to my table (about 1000 people visited the event) I hear her say, “This is a great recipe. I have sampled it many times.” I realize this is no longer my recipe, but our recipe. We are a team. We are in it together and I am so very honored and humbled to be in her presence. Thank you co-champion!

co-champs

co-champs

If I have learned one thing from my son’s death it is to embrace gratitude. I have so much to be thankful for especially the fact that I can share my inspired and spirited recipes across this great nation. Celebrating William and my dear mother in law, Renetta Keys, through my Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread was an emotionally charged celebration of goodness. How lucky am I to have had such a loving woman in my life and to honor her as the 2015 National Festival of Breads Grand Champion? See the winning recipe: Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread

This loaf was auctioned off for $600.00.  Thank you Red Star Yeast

This loaf was auctioned off for $600.00. Thank you Red Star Yeast

To top it off my recipe is going in to mass production and going to be sold at the Hy-Vee grocery store in Man-Happiness. Folks out there will be breaking “my” bread over dinner and hopefully slicing it up for a killer post Thanksgiving turkey sandwich.