Good, lately

Lately, I've been mighty bogged down by work.  Last week made real champions out of all of us. When I finally made it to Friday evening, I was lulled into the most perfectly opposite and peaceful revery at our monthly Taize gathering.  I suddenly didn't feel so alone in my week and in my desperation for peace, as we made a pilgrimage to the altar with our light.

When I have weeks like that, when I've forgotten all the perspective I gained in Africa, I have to summon a collection of good things.  Cull together all the happenings, moments, and details that made it all worthwhile.

Last week I made this Lemon Blueberry Drizzle Cake.  It marked the start of my week and was a very good thing.  I first saw it in the William's Sonoma Home Baked Comfort baking book that I randomly checked out of the library at Christmastime. It turned out to be a real gem of a book and I am constantly thinking of recipes from it, wishing I had a copy of my own.  I have been wanting to try this recipe for ages - I love lemon and blueberry together.  And strangely, I still have bags of blueberries from Michigan leftover from the summer's pickings.  They got buried under all the containers of soups and veggie lasagnas and loaves of homebaked bread. What could be better than the brightness of lemon and blueberry to blast through your last week of February?  My latest issue of Whole Living did a feature on citrus, with this dramatic but oh-so-true opening:  "Those sherbet-bright oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes show up in the produce aisle just when we're needing them most.  When the wind is whipping and we haven't seen the grass for weeks, who couldn't use a little warm-weather fling to remind her of sunnier times?  These seasonal beauties remind us there's nothing quite so affirming as a bracing citrus kiss."

Amen to that.  It would seem Chicago's due for a doozy of a snow-storm.  6-12 inches.  In March. What a bust. This Lemon Blueberry Drizzle Cake is just what you need, I guarantee it.  It's ridiculously easy to make, makes a gorgeous presentation for guests or no-one if you're planning to grab a fork and a corner when it pops out of the oven, and it is just beaming with brightness and cheer.

Lemon Blueberry Drizzle Cake
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus 1 teaspoon for blueberries
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries

For the Syrup:
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
about 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
3. With a mixer, beat the sugar, butter, and lemon zest on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes.  Add in the eggs one at a time, until each one is incorporated.  Add in the milk and vanilla extract, and beat until well blended, about 1 minute.  Add the dry ingredients and beat until just incorporated.
4. In a small bowl, toss clean blueberries with the 1 teaspoon of flour.  Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.  Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
5. Bake until the top is lightly browned and toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes.  Allow bread to cool in pan for a few minutes, then turn onto cooling rack.
6. While the bread is baking, make the lemon syrup.  In a small saucepan, measure lemon juice and sugar, and bring to a boil over medium heat, until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.
7. Using a skewer, poke the top of the cake all over.  Don't be shy, you want all the syrup to go into the cake so it will be nice and moist.  Brush the bread generously with the lemon syrup.  Allow the bread to cool completely, about 2 to 3 hours.
8. To make the glaze: In a small bowl, mix the confectioners sugar and lemon juice, and whisk to combine.  When cake is completely cool, drizzle the top with the glaze.

In other good news, yesterday I made my first batch of hot cross buns of the season.  Another must make. Dotted with golden raisins, warm with spices and orange zest.  The perfect end to the perfect Sunday afternoon. 

Perhaps the most considerable and astounding good thing of all: the story of my bike.  Most folks have heard this story by now.  It's become this incredible emblem of good and just and the phenomenon that makes you think that the universe is in fact working toward the hope and wonder of humankind.  Since it's old news by now, I'll spare you the details - I just couldn't very well keep such a story out of my Collection of Good Things.  The long and short of it is, my incredibly unique, one-of-a-kind, vintage bike from the UK was stolen while I was volunteering at the food pantry.  I was beyond crushed.  Walked home dismal and dismayed, crying and feeling silly for it.  Exactly three days later, I walked up to our local grocery store just as a guy was riding up on my one-of-a-kind bike.  "That's my bike!"  The conclusion is, he walked away with nothing, and well, I got my bike back.

Today is Election Day in Kenya.  When we were there just a few weeks ago, everyone was talking about it, anticipating it, worrying about it.  There were riots and power-outages, all because of the election.  It's been 5 years since the last election, which broke out in riots, killing over 1,000 Kenyans and destroying a nation's hope for a just and fair election.  We must pray for our dear Kenyan brothers and sisters - for peace, for justice, and for a new hope.

Also today, it is my dear padre's birthday.  Today, he celebrates 54 years of good.  He has perhaps, been my greatest influence in life and one of the most thoughtful, confounding, and humble folks I know.  Last week, when we got a few inches of snow overnight, I had to leave early to drive somewhere, and typical, didn't allow time to shovel/scrape/warm the car.  My dad was outside shoveling snow and sent me this text: Your car is cleaned off, out front and ready to go when you are, ma'am.  Because of him, I know that I am loved for who I am no matter what.  I know that living a great story comes before living the story you're expected or supposed to live.  I know that it's ok to be 54 and still not be able to explain exactly what you do for a living.  I know that every Wednesday is Pizza Wednesday.  And I know that the car will be gassed up and ready to go when I am.  Happy to know him, happy to call him my dad.

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