is my very favourite time of all the year...

my fondest memories - of childhoods spent worshipping the rising Son as the day dawned over the ocean with bare feet, of elaborate egg hunts orchestrated by my dad in the bush, of youths spent doubting and wondering, of celebrating alone on a beach and leaving messages in stone on the sand, of leading reflective services by candlelight, of cradling my newborn son in the french countryside, of dyeing farm-grown eggs with three small children, of rainy autumns and sunny springs...

though we each come with different beliefs and memories... we are welcome to the table - welcome to be blessed, welcome to celebrate life, new beginnings, loving grace in Him.

and so I bake hot cross buns and fill the air with spices, pen round shapes while my child sleeps, read seasoned words like "My peace I give you, My peace I leave you", hum taize chants, decide to take a long overdue technology break to cradle warm cups of chai, knit, pack boxes, walk solitary, pray softly...

may the holiday bring much joy and tenderness to you too.


Hot Cross Buns
(unapologetically gluten free - deliciously moist and fragrant)

for the buns:
250ml warm milk
1 sachet dried yeast (7g)
3 tablespoons honey
1 egg
50g melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 1/2 cups plain gluten free flour
(I mix my own blend with 1 cup rice flour, 1 cup potato flour and 1/2 cup arrowroot flour)
1/2 cup almond meal
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup dried raisins
1/2 cup chopped candied citrus peel
for the crosses:
1 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons GF flour
1/4 cup water
for the glaze:
50g butter
1 tablespoon honey
generous pinch ground cinnamon

Prepare the buns by mixing yeast and honey into a small bowl with the warm milk - let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile combine flours, almond and spice in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together egg, butter and vanilla - slowly whisk in yeasty milk mixture. Pour wet mixture into flours and stir to combine with a wooden spoon - the texture should be smooth and thick but not stiff enough to knead with your hands. Grease 12-muffin tins with melted butter. Spoon mixture out evenly into tin. cover and let rise for about 30 minutes in a warm place.

Preheat oven to 200'c. Make crosses by stirring butter, flour and water together until you have a smooth and thick paste - fill a piping bag and carefully ice crosses on the top of the risen buns. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile prepare the glaze by bringing butter, honey and cinnamon to boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and brush over hot buns as soon as they come out of the oven. Enjoy warm with lashings of butter of course!

in thanks

dear friends, thank you for joining me here - recently I've felt my blog-voice wane as life became so busy and uncertain for us. I struggle still with fatigue and a flurry of thoughts to process but am at this moment overwhelmed with the kindness of friends, the healing hugs of my child, the softness of the sky on the horizon (that meets us, wherever we go). 

This morning as I cupped a bowl of steaming tea in my hands, I read:

Let thanks temper all your thoughts...

Ah, I thought, and yes... in thanks I'm present. In thanks I'm not impressing or disappointing. In thanks I'm not overlooking what's here and hard, but in a state of remembrance and rest. In thanks I'm redirecting my heart to gladness. In thanks I have peace in my spirit.

Right now -
for the brilliant purple of tibouchinas
for the fragrance of gardenias
for the season's first quinces
for the comfort of tea, warm socks, nourishing food -
for the face of my grandmother at her ninetieth birthday
for the yawn of my baby niece, 
for the health of our minds and bodies
for the land that sustains us,
for the love of my family
for the richness of community

for the certainties and the uncertainties -
thanks be.

Epiphany Day

Today we made this sweet cake in celebration…when so long ago, the magi sought the presence of a tiny babe, a Bethlehem King, swaddled tight. A bright star adorned His night-time crown, witnesses to birth and death, though the wide world still slept.

We savour and imagine, we remember and are refreshed.

This time last year  I was struggling with the grey of winter, with widening distance, loneliness. How different to be now so accompanied, sun drenched, contented. For when we need it most and when we don't, always, an enfolding by Him. Soft spirit, gentle King - thanks be.

~ A Kingly Carrot Bundt ~
 A tradition of many European countries to herald this day with a special baked treat. This is not traditional recipe to any particular country - but inspired by a carrot abundance. It is gluten free and not apologetic about it.

3/4 cup brown sugar 
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup whole milk
5 eggs, separated
2 cups gluten free flour (I use a blend of brown rice/potato/tapioca)
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
1 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts, plus more for topping
2 cups grated carrots
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 1/2 cups cream cheese
1/3 cup pure icing sugar
zest & juice of 1 orange

Preheat moderate oven to 180'c. In a large bowl whisk to combine flours, spice, almonds and baking powder. In a separate bowl or jug whisk together oil, sugar, milk and egg yolks - pour into dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir in grated carrots, orange zest and juice and walnuts. In a separate clean bowl whisk egg whites until slightly stir, fold into cake batter being careful not to over mix. Pour into a grease bundt tin and bake for 50 - 70 minutes or until golden in colour and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool completely before un-moulding. 

To make icing beat cream cheese until softened, add sifted icing sugar to taste (I like mine on the not-so-sweet side) and orange zest and juice. Carefully cut bundt in half. Sandwich the halves together with some of the icing and speed the rest on top. Garnish with more chopped walnuts and a light dusting of icing sugar. Serve with an excellent pot of tea. 

rest and remembrance

scenes from years past, Christmas in France...

My last two Christmases were cold, which was normal given we were living in France at the time and December means Winter. Both years we had the blessing to visit dear friends living in the Alsatian city of Strasbourg, the first two photos picture me there - the first with my babe thirty-four weeks grown in the womb and my second with my Reuben ten-months-old. I savour those memories well! And even though most Christmases I have known have been in the summertime, it feels strange this year not to feel cool and wrapped up.

Ten days ago I fell ill with a cold which has now become an infection in my sinuses. I feel like I've been beaten repeatedly to the face and neck, my muscles ache, my ribs hurt from dry coughing and my nose keeps running a colour I'd rather not see. It hurts to look down for too long and even lying on the bed makes me feel a bit dizzy. Nights are feverish. Reuben caught the cold as well, but thankfully has recovered. I have started a course of antibiotics and will most likely not feel so great on December 25th. I really have to stop thinking or planning or trying, just rest. I have had to let go of the blogs I wanted to write with merry projects, last minute gifts, baking, craft with the little ones, long letters to overseas friends, farm chores...

My lover may not find a tree to cut mistletoe down for me, and anyway, I do not feel up to standing under it for kissing. My front door is not adorned with fresh branches of pine and ruby crabapples from the nearby park... The french marker is not a walk away with my son strapped to my chest. No little packages of baked biscuits to tie up and deliver for my neighbours...

Instead I lie flat with the ceiling fan gently spinning. I listen to the howling wind in the cypress. Cough and splutter. I sip cranberry water. I see our door wreath simply woven with holly, twine, ribbons and synthetic poinsettia (since the heat would wilt them brown in an hour). I cuddle my babe in the big bed with me and read the nativity. I close my eyes. I remember well -

I have to rest. I have to rest in my greatest gift, I have to rest in Him...

Oh, holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices!
Oh, night divine, oh, night when Christ was born!
Oh, night divine, oh, night, oh, night divine!

 This weary soul rejoices!

Blessings to you and your kin for a Christmas filled with hope, grace and goodness.

Emily xx

round the hearth

the hearth is the heart of the home, so they say, and it's true it's where we spent most of our time together - keeping warm (or cooling down), preparing meals, savouring the harvest, talking about life, love, faith, silliness too.

lately there's been lots of stock making with big beef bones...
chicken stewed in red wine and bay leaves (coq au vin)...
healing chicken and vegetable soup...
crispy roasted potatoes with fresh rosemary...
eggs every morning, always with butter, sometimes with bacon/tomatoes/sausages...
chives and parsley from the garden and hand-squeezed orange juice...
spring produce drawn and meals planned...
many cups of russian caravan, earl grey and english breakfast tea with hours fresh milk...
cream skipped off and whipped up for pavlova...
fresh flowers on the table like wild roses from the hedgerow and lavender from the side of the house... the fire stoked on cool spring nights...
little hands drawing and dreaming with me...
- coq au vin (chicken red wine stew) -

1 large onion, chopped
2 rashers of free-range bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 large celery stalk, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium carrots (I used purple heirloom variety)

1.5 kg pastured chicken, in eight pieces
2 cups red wine
2-3 cups chicken stock
"bouquet garni" (sprig thyme, 3 bay leaves, couple of parsley stalks tied together with string)
salt and pepper to taste
handful fresh parsley for garnish
(**usually mushrooms are added as well, but we had none so mine is without**)

in a large heavy-based pot melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Gently sauté onions until golden. Add in bacon, celery, garlic and carrots and cook for a further 3-5 minutes or until softened. Stir in chicken pieces and pour in stock, wine and herbs. You want the chicken to be completely covered by liquid so you may need to add an extra cup of stock. Bring stew to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer for 1.5 hours thereabouts. You want the chicken to be tender and fall off the bone. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over hot mash or roasted potatoes with a dollop of cream and a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley...

- crispy rosemary potatoes -

1 kilo dutch cream potatoes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
flaked sea salt
2 tablespoons lard or butter or olive oil

preheat hot oven to 220'c. meanwhile peel and scrub clean potatoes. cut in half lengthwise and in half again (to make quarters, or eighths if its a giant potato). Fill a medium-sized saucepan with cold water and tip in your potatoes, add a generous sprinkle of sea salt and bring to the boil. Parboil potatoes for about 10 minutes then drain in a colander. Meanwhile toss melted lard/butter or olive oil with fresh herbs in a ceramic baking dish. Pour in potatoes into the dish and shake about a bit, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 40-50 minutes - shaking half way through to prevent any burning. You may need to turn the heat down as well...

a reminder

about your life
about your clothes
about your food
about that second cup of tea
or that scar on your belly,
do not worry
about your lists
about your plans
forms to fill out
and emails to send
do not worry
about your sleep
dark circled eyes,
or your inward-facing feet,
when I say
do not worry
I do not mean
be absent minded
or careless, 
I mean,
do not let 
all the details
choke you from
actually living,
embracing Me
and the peace I give.

inspired by matthew 6: 25. I have a tendency to worry. about many things, some things worthy of a care and others no not really. amidst the busyness/chaos/brilliance of the coming weeks as we prepare to move, travel to faraway places and re-settle on the other side of the globe, I need to remind myself of this so very often. that and a blue and white teapot is one of the most comforting sights I know... 

day seven

that cannot be bought
or sold or traded for shares,
Peace that isn't prejudiced
or privileged to those
with much, or light skin,
or flowery speech,
Peace that isn't a result
of a nice turn of events
luck, or revenue
Peace that doesn't lie
about who we really are,
can do, or will be -
Peace that often
comes silently, gently
Peace that knows no limit,
one that never leaves,
in other words -
Peace that is simply,
peace that is He.

day six

I read recently: vision is seeing through god's eyes
I thought about the faculty of sight,
that can be both looking at what is
about you in that certain moment,
physical properties, structures
but also a looking
back (at past)
forward (at future)
sideways (at dreams)
and sometimes we look,
eyes open,
but we don't really see...

I imagine what it would be
to glimpse at the world
with the Maker's eyes
to have vision
of beginnings and ends
and beginnings again

to look at my short life
and see something beyond
the present moments,
actions, memories, plans -
to an eternal melody
jazz-like, tangling,
truth with beauty,
multi foliate mystery...