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Archive for the ‘Between the Pages’ Category

If you haven’t yet signed up for my newsletter, you’re missing out! That’s where you’ll find special things I don’t share anywhere else, like a mouth-watering pie recipe (next newsletter) that I found while researching for my upcoming book, Wings Like a Dove. [You can sign up for that newsletter HERE, and when you do, you’ll also get a link to download a free novella, a tender love story only available to my newsletter subscribers.]

wacky cake

Due to a lack of standard ingredients (as in the Depression, and war rationing), some recipes were altered, and new ones were invented. One of the recipes from such an era is “Wacky Cake” which gets its name from its “crazy” lack of eggs, butter, and milk. The decision to invent a chocolate cake without eggs and dairy was sheer genius. Wacky Cake is easy to throw together in a pinch, and has always been a favorite around my house.

But back to pie…

I’m not sure why pie kept turning up in Wings Like a Dove, but I have a theory, which we’ll come back to in a minute. In one instance, pie plays a part in mastering sixth grade math. In another, pie is involved in something far more dramatic.

Samuel

A young black boy named Samuel is accused of stealing a pie, and Anna, the heroine, inserts herself in the situation hoping to divert some potentially ominous consequences.

So how did pie find its way into my 1930s story? From a conversation with my late father-in-law, who was a boy of Samuel’s age the year Wings is set.

Even though Dad had dementia, he loved to tell stories. I got him talking once about growing up in the 30s, and since I was working on this novel, I asked him what kinds of things he and his friends did for fun, how they spent their summers, etc. He and his buddies rode their bikes all over, sometimes from Northeast Portland all the way to Multnomah Falls and back, a fifty-mile round trip. (50! I’m trying to picture kids doing that now, but I can’t, sadly…). They did a lot of fishing, hiking, and exploring. I asked what they did for food on a long day like that, and he said he would pack himself five or six sandwiches.

pie on windowsill

And then out of nowhere, my conscientious father-in-law piped up and said, “Sometimes, I’d swipe a pie.”

“What? You stole a pie? Like a whole one?” I wasn’t sure if this was actual fact, or the dementia talking.

He chuckled. “Yeah, but most of the time, I paid for it.”

“How much did a pie cost back then?”

“Twelve cents,” he said without missing a beat. Even with dementia, his ability to remember history and ancient detail was sharp.

“And I’m guessing you shared it with your buddies.”

He just smiled. “Sometimes.” (Al was a tall, lean Norwegian with an appetite the size of Rhode Island—anyone who knew him can attest to this.)

Stories from previous generations ought to be passed down and treasured up. And sometimes, bits of real-life stories can be preserved by inserting them into a novel—like a pack of adventurous boys and a twelve-cent pie.

Q: Do you have stories passed down from parents or grandparents, from childhood, from earlier eras, from simpler times? Can you think of some special ways to make sure these stories are preserved?

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flour sacks printed for reuse

During the Great Depression, money was tight, food and other necessities were scarce, and people quickly learned to stretch meals, make things last, make do with what little they had, or do without.

One resource I found useful while researching my upcoming novel, Wings Like a Dove, was the book We Had Everything But Money: Priceless Memories of the Great Depression. It’s full of interesting, first-hand stories of how people got through some tough times.

People in the 1930s quickly learned to get more than one use out of everything they could — which created a recycling mindset. Feed and flour came in large sturdy sacks, sometimes made from colorful fabrics.

flour sack pink blue

When women started using their empty feed sacks and flour bags to make clothing, manufacturers began printing the bags in brighter colors and prettier patterns. Women would try to collect enough of the same print or design to make a dress or other clothing. Old schoolhouse photos depict sets of siblings wearing clothes of matching fabric.

In Wings Like a Dove, Anna tries to make money using her skills as a seamstress. She mends clothing for her new friend, Sarah, including a dress made from a flour sack in a pretty print. The dress inspires Anna to collect flour sacks in hopes of making herself a new, larger gown, which will soon be needed as she is desperate to keep her expanding belly hidden.

quilt with feed sack fabric

She also collects fabric scraps and sews quilts to sell, in order to earn money both for herself and to send home to her sister (unbeknownst to their mother) to help with the family’s rent.

If you were alive during the Great Depression, or your parents or grandparents were, you may be familiar with the impulse to save things that might have another use. While we should probably avoid becoming hoarders, we might save a few bucks, lessen waste, and maybe invent a cool new hack if we took the time and used a little creativity to get another use out of things.tp-tube-hack.jpg

Okay. While not earthshaking it its originality, here’s one of mine: I reuse paper towel tubes to contain electrical cords on appliances that store in a small space, like the hair clippers, and I also use them for keeping my silicone baking mats tidy.

Q: What is something you’ve been surprised to find comes in handy for a completely new use?

Speaking of keeping a sharp eye out for good stuff, join me and dozens of award-winning authors THIS THURSDAY for the Fall Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt, beginning Nov 7 at 12 noon (MST) at http://www.LisaTBergren.com! Get ready to have some fun, and I hope to see you there!

scav hunt 2019 prize photo

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Bread Basket shutterstock_208501699_0BREAD …

Do you salivate just hearing that word?

Bread is a staple of so many world cuisines. Mix flour, oil, water & salt and you have a tortilla. And good heavens, some bread is more addictive than street drugs (just a guess, Mom). Have you ever buttered a slab of homemade bread still hot from the oven? Sunk your teeth into a freshly-baked cinnamon roll? Guarded that sweet, spongey little center knob with a hiss that would scare off a coyote?

Don’t give me that look, you know what I’m talking about.

Bread symbolizes Life in so many ways, don’t you think? It’s so universal, so basic a life-giving staple that we ALL need, recognize, and can relate to. I wonder if Jesus referred to himself as the “Bread of Life” for this very reason.

Because my upcoming novel, Wings Like a Dove, is the story of a young Jewish woman, let’s talk about Challah (pronounced: KHAH-luh). This is a Hebrew, ceremonial bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Have you ever baked it? Eaten it?

In the story, Anna often bakes bread for the boys she tutors, and sometimes, it’s challah. For her, there is special meaning in the baking and sharing of this bread. For example, she explains to young Samuel that the braid symbolizes unity and mankind’s interdependence, that people need one another in order to succeed. For Anna, this is a belief perhaps discussed by her family as she grew up taking part in Shabbos. But in the story, as Anna’s journey progresses, this philosophy will be put hard to the test.

I am not Jewish, but I do like to bake, and I used to bake bread quite often. We didn’t have a lot of money and it’s such a ridiculously cheap but delicious treat. When my kids were younger, I found a recipe for challah and made it a handful of times, to my “if you bake it, we will come” carb-a-holic family’s delight. The challah recipe I used came from a magazine (remember those??).

I was intrigued by the fact that the recipe called for extra egg yolks, which makes the finished bread golden yellow. The yolks also gave the loaf a rich, satisfying flavor. We loved the bread, but none of us had any idea what challah was actually meant to be used for. All we knew was that we loved to inhale it, and the more butter we could slather on it, the better.

So since we are breaking virtual bread together, I asked my Jewish friend, Donna Cohen, if she would share some thoughts about challah with us.

“I am no expert in Judaism but I sure do love my challah! The interesting thing about challah is that, while it is associated religiously with Shabbos (the Sabbath) it is also associated culturally with the Jewish people.  In our home, leftover challah is used for making French Toast, garlic bread, PB&J, and just plain toast!

For me, baking my own challah is part of the spirituality of Shabbos. On Shabbos, two challahs are set on the table representing the double portion of manna that came from G-d. The process of making the dough, braiding the bread, and the amazing smell of the bread helps to put me in the spirit of Shabbos.

Here is an important fact: There is no such thing as a typical challah. There is a basic challah recipe but so many variations from that recipe. Some use sugar, others use honey. Some use white flour, others wheat flour. Some use oil, others margarine. Some may have raisins, others do not. Many have a combination of these. There are even recipes for gluten free challah.

Actually there are certainly hundreds of recipes (and that is probably an understatement)!  I have a cookbook devoted only to challah. Not only does it have recipes, but it includes rituals related to challah as well as instructions on how to braid challah (there are many techniques using various numbers of strands and different ways to create various shapes). The most common types are probably plain, or topped with poppy or sesame. I’ve seen them made with other toppings as well such as garlic, sprinkles, or even chocolate chips (usually pareve which means non-dairy as in kosher homes meat and milk are not mixed). Some people get extremely creative! In my assortment of various other kosher cookbooks, there are inevitably a few recipes for challah. YouTube has many tutorials as well.

Challah baking is more than bread baking. It’s tradition, it’s a personal and spiritual experience, and it is a way to bring blessings into the home. I’ve experienced “Challah Bakes” where hundreds of women get together to bake. It is amazing to feel the energy in that room. All over challah.
Donna C Bread photo
Here’s a picture of my plain challahs that I baked for Shabbos. Wish you could all join us for a taste! To those who celebrate, Shabbat Shalom!”  -Donna Cohen

Thank you, Donna! So my question for Donna is why the two different types of braids in the pictured batch?

There are many options as far as recipes and styles of challah, but if you want to give it a try, here’s one fairly basic recipe that I found online. And please feel free to share your bread recipes and stories, challah or any other kinds.

Let’s Talk:

  • What is your favorite bread to eat? To bake?
  • Have you ever baked or tried challah?

If you have not and are now determined to try challah, I hope you’ll come back and comment (or email me) and share your challah baking or sampling experience.

Blessings!

-Camille

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Between the Pages header

In Wings Like a Dove, Thomas speaks of the kind, old man who took him under his wing as an orphan, a Norwegian man of faith whose quiet humility inspired Thomas to seek his own relationship with God. Thomas credits his own faith to Gabriel’s simple, lifelong devotion to God, even as his life was slipping away.

Have you ever known someone whose simple, steadfast faith inspired you in some way? Someone whose unwavering relationship with God bolsters your faith, increases your hope? I have.

The fictional Gabriel was inspired by our own real-life Gabriel—my father in law, Osborn Gabriel (“Al”) Eide, also a Norwegian.AL (34.0)

He was a man of simple, unwavering faith, a simple, hardworking son, husband, friend, father, and grandfather, whose love for Jesus was always evident all throughout his adult life and right into his nineties, even long after his mind was muddled by dementia. At that point, he couldn’t fake his faith, couldn’t put on a “religious” act. He had zero filters and zero “self-awareness”.

AL (34.8)

AL (56)

His love for God and the spirit of God so visible in him even during those final years bolstered my faith. Even when he was confused and his conversation made little sense, he still exuded humility, kindness, and solid faith in Jesus, right up to the very end.

received_10204836930522053

He was a special favorite of his caregivers at the home where he last lived, people who never knew him in his strong, sound-minded prime, and yet still loved his grateful, kind demeanor and appreciated his gentle encouragement to “find yourself a good church.”

 

Have you ever known anyone with a faith that long and unshakable? To what do you attribute this?

 

Here’s the video tribute we made for Al Eide, for those who knew and loved him.

 

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Have you ever met anyone with a cold, unapproachable demeanor that made you think twice about talking to them?

You know, the If You Take One Step Closer I Will Bite You type?

curmudgeon

How do you usually respond to people like that?

I confess: I’m a fraidy cat. If someone’s expression or body language tells me they don’t want anything to do with me, I am quick to oblige and pass on by. And if for some reason I’m forced to speak to someone who’s stabbing me a hundred ways with their eyes, I’m sure I put off some kind of hunted prey fear hormone, making the encounter all the more nerve-racking.

Just once, I’d love to be that radiant soul who smiles anyway and has the nerve to clap the grump on the back and shower them with sweetness and light.

But life—and some great examples in fiction and film—have taught me that people are not always what they first appear to be. I am *learning* not to let a gruff demeanor fool me or keep me from reaching out or from caring. I didn’t say I’m finding it easy. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s so needed.

I personally have this weird soft spot for fictional curmudgeons. An example I’ll never forget is Margaret, in the novel Some Wildflower in My Heart. A woman named Birdie in the story is a beautiful example of the power of friendship. If you like the tough shell/broken heart type of story, you’ll definitely want read that one.

Speaking of tough shells, in Like a Love Song, Sue shoots off prickly vibes when she’s forced to hire Joe at her ranch for foster kids. She’s a no-nonsense gal with a tough demeanor. Joe is personally challenged to show Sue the love of God, despite her manner, and this woman doesn’t make it easy. But before long, Joe begins to see that her demeanor is only a protective shield for a deeply wounded heart.

The curmudgeon I’ve most recently fallen for is Ove from A Man Called Ove (novel & film). Have you met him? What a fascinating, heart-tugging contradiction he turns out to be! And how our feelings about him change as we get to know him. (I highly recommend this story; it will SHRED you.)

Ove 8-31-19

I’m convinced that God also has a soft spot for curmudgeons. He can see far more deeply into our neighbors than we ever can, and he’s not intimidated by a gruff demeanor. He knows the hurt, the disappointment, the loneliness. He knows what pain is being guarded by that prickly exterior. And not only is he not a fraidy cat, he’s interested in bringing a healing touch to those hurting places.

And I believe he’s interested in helping us fraidy cats muster the nerve to look beyond the “CLOSED” sign and give a lingering smile, offer a little friendship.

Let’s Talk: What other story comes to mind with a character like Sue or Ove—cold and unapproachable, but inwardly hurting and alone? Do you hesitate to approach people who seem to want to be left alone? Are you inclined to stop and speak anyway, or do you tend to pass on by? Have you ever gone out on a limb and approached someone who seemed gruff and found them to be surprisingly receptive?

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