A moment to stop and think

Challah It’s been a long year and this cold, dark winter started early for us here in Europe back in November. Outside the garden birds are twittering as if Spring is only round the corner; 6.30 am, still dark, and they are shrieking their heads off on the last day of the year. I watched the male blackbird triumphantly drag a very long earthworm from the grass yesterday, so relieved to see the earth had melted enough to allow him to practice his artistry once more. He walks around, taps the soil, cocks his head on one side so as to listen and then hearing something I can’t even imagine, taps his head sharply down, stabbing through the short grass and comes up with Worm! So very focussed and quite wonderful to watch.

I drove out to Sandford yesterday, or rather the sat nav took me. Going up and down the Somerset hills, past the airport, through thick fog for a mile, followed by watery sunshine over the brow of another hill, past Barrow tanks, wondering vaguely if any interesting birds were overwintering up on the other side of the steep banks, it was a quiet sort of a drive, in which I had a little time to contemplate how fast life changes and also how slowly.

I visited a sparkly new nursing facility, saw my neighbour who is staying there, getting her confidence back after her hip replacement at the age of 94. She is full of plans and focus:  to get home again she has to be able to walk confidently once more. Her path is clear to her.  It is always good to spend time with people however young or old they are. Other people are a great strength and joy and cherishing others is the basis of all qualities.

So my old year/new year thoughts are very simple, to do more listening with an open heart and be kind. Make that my default and it will be a good year.

If you want to write a little something here, please do, I hope to listen better and this is as good a place to do that as any.  Happy New Year to you all!

The bread?  A challah in the form of the sun; bread magic to help the year to turn once more.

27 thoughts on “A moment to stop and think

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      ChocChilliMango Thank you for your kind words. :)

      By the way I have updated your website url on my comments so it goes to your blog when people click on your name above. Still thinking about using your panettone recipe… next year, well maybe tomorrow then !

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          Ended up making pitta tonight and an ‘easy Hugh Furry Bottom chocolate cake’. Husband went outside and barbecued mini souvlaki in the dark with a lamp on his head. Such fun :)

  1. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Beautiful post, my beautiful friend. I don’t know how you’re going to listen better or be kinder or more open than you already are, though, because I already find you superlative at all those things. All the best to you and B for a magnificent 2011!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I have a butterfly brain that wanders off in the middle of conversations, the butterfly has to learn to sit still, honestly. But thank you for the sweet comment my friend :)

  2. bagnidilucca

    I spend a lot of time travelling. It is usually the people I meet along the way that make it interesting and fun. Often when I am travelling alone I have some delightful conversations on trains or in a strange town, when admiring something wonderful.
    I ran into an acquaintance yesterday who was having lunch with her 100 year old mother. I have known them both for 20 years and the 100 year old is not much different from when I first met her. What an inspiration!! She was dressed up, looking fabulous, and thrilled to be having lunch with her daughter. Happy New Year.

  3. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Joanna beautiful words… I think I should do a touch more listening with an open heart for the new year to come too.
    I really hope your dear neighbour succeeds in getting back to where she wants to be.
    …and your bread? Stunning. Makes me smile, and my heart go pit a pat.

    Happy 2011 dear Joanna.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Thank you for the lovely comment Brydie!

      I’m working up to that starfish of yours…. just got to make the right dough for it. This one is a lot easier I think ;)

  4. minadott

    Joanna I wish you and yours a wonderful New Year ahead and look forward to sharing new baking ideas (the highs and the (fortunately few) lows). I sometimes think of all the other things I could do with my time if I did not bake, but then I decide that it would be a life less fulfilled and a life less rich without the magic that can come from the oven. All best wishes Lynne

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      The magic from the oven – every time it gets me too and I have a bit more time to spare than you I suspect… Thank you Lynne for all the fun we’ve had this year, much appreciated :)

  5. drfugawe

    Thank you for the new year reminder of my father, who although he had limited schooling, was one of the wisest men I knew – he would tell me, “Everyone has something to teach us, but we can only learn when we’re quiet.”

    May you learn much in the coming year.

  6. heidi

    Happy New Year, Joanna!
    Spending our time wisely is perhaps the best investment of every year- and spending it listening- to birds- to people-to the elements- to our own wandering thoughts- is paramount to becoming the people we would like to be!
    I love this post. And I’m so thankful I met you here this year.
    Looking forward to another year of beautiful thoughts and breads!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Thank you Heidi. I do think I have underrated listening for a long time now, so I’m trying to redress the balance. I’m very happy to have met you too :)

  7. Franr

    Your blog always cheers and inspires.
    The sun challah made me smile. Thank you Joanna for super photography and recipes.
    Wishing you and your family all the best for 2011.
    To all fellow bakers a very happy new year. May we have a happy and peacefull 2011.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      And to you too dear Fran – I hope we meet again in Wales next July if not before. That sun challah is relatively easy to do. I made it for my Dad who carted it off to the Lake District.
      Three long strands, crossed in the middle and then roll them up. I think it would be great with some cinammon raisin mixture tucked in there too :)

        1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

          I read something about making challah taste less eggy Heidi, which was to use egg yolks and not the egg whites, I might experiment. Though of course one could always make that sun shape with a nice firm dough of any description and roll it up with yummy goodies :)

  8. Chocveg

    Happy New Year Joanna! I am lucky enough to be now in Cape Town with my brother and family. Today we went to the Kirstenbosch gardens from late afternoon until it closed at 7. It was a delight to be under the setting sun above the city with the sea in the distance, with a bread-free holiday so far! Have a good year, and may we meet up somewhere! Happy Baking, love from Allison x

  9. jan trounce

    Joanna, your post was beautiful and reading through the comments was quite lovely. (I love imagining what the blackbird hears!) I’ve just farewelled my three grandchildren (1, 3 and 6) whom we’ve had since Saturday midday until about an hour ago. I was feeling so exhausted – we’ve had some very funny moments with them but basically you need to be an octopus with a head that swivels 360 degrees. Halfway through making biscuits with them I thought “not your best idea Janice”! Now, after reading your post – I’m reminded to cherish the insights into their thoughts and the moments of helpless laughter and the one-year olds pats at 2am and be thankful for those things. Happy New Year to your household Joanna, may your oven always be warm.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Feeling blessed and exhausted – I think that sounds rather wonderful Jan! I laughed reading your comment: I confess I had a go at making gingerbread men just before Christmas, watching in horror as the cookie dough spread all over the trays, fighting with icing and so on, I can’t imagine what it’s like doing it with three little beings :) Thank you for being such a wonderful blogfriend, you are a rare creature, I am sure many of us wish you would blog a little too! I for one would enjoy reading it xx

      1. jan trounce

        Thank you for those lovely comments Joanna – your ‘Stephen King’ style gingerbread men experiment made me smile – I’ve turned out plenty of little horrors too. I also have a butterfly brain but not one half as interesting as yours or any of the other bloggers or ‘commenters’ I enjoy so much. As for photography, I was trying to get a good picture of 6 year old Zaccy eating mashed pumpkin and “those green ball things” (peas) for the first time (he’s a very fussy eater) and made him look almost ghoulish -he told me with six-year old candour that I’d better try again – another time!

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