Cosmic Gathering is our women only invitation to connection and self care brought together by Candace of Lovely Woods press, Michelle of Cosmic Bath &Beauty, and Myself. Our fall gathering was a beautiful pause to the autumn season for an evening of spiced and spiked drinks, fall flavors, and an opportunity to support local female entrepreneurs while spending time with old friends and connecting with new ones. Offerings included fall flower crowns, portraiture, tarot readings, hand scrub bar, vintage dresses, crystal jewelry, henna, live typewriter poetry, sourdough specialties, and artful creations. Here are some behind the scenes photos by wonderful Marilyn Days Photography, I hope they entice you to attend our next gathering in the spring and to follow some of these local female powerhouses.
Alchemy Bread would be nothing without our community. Customer Scrapbook is an ongoing collection of the special people who make our world vibrant. It's my pleasure to use this installment to introduce you to my regular customers and dear friends Liz Schuiling and Sarah Darpinian of Oak Valley Youth Garden.
"I love coming to friendship bake at Alchemy Bread because my kids love to think about what we have growing that we could trade with Bonnie for bread. I love that it makes customers and friends grow closer and creates a community! -Plus the bread is delicious!" - Liz
Sarah and Liz together run the Oak Valley Youth Garden project. This free children's program offers gardening twice a month on Thursdays, where young people can learn about the work involved in growing food at the Ripon Community Garden space. This hands on learning is a valuable asset to our children and a beautiful introduction to the natural abundance of our region. Learning the ongoing process and seasonal ebb and flow of different flora is an invaluable lesson to learn early and connect to the care and stewardship of our local resources.
Each gardening day includes a special lesson, a handcraft for older children and a storytime for younger ones. Creative and thoughtful lessons and crafts have included making leaf lanterns out of mason jars, learning about heirloom seeds, making fresh butter, and even a little sewing project!
Sarah and Liz put plenty of their own unpaid hours into this program to make it free and accessible to all children. They purchase the plants and seeds, craft materials and supplies for the garden. All the produce they grow is donated to the Gospel Mission and the St. Vincent De Paul food pantry to provide fresh vegetables for meals to those in dire need. One way that they raise money to support their efforts is with a fundraiser. This year they are offering locally hand printed market totes featuring their beautiful new logo.
Please consider supporting this wonderful organization and putting down roots in your local community by purchasing a tote, which will look wonderful carrying all your produce at the farmer's market. Purchase a tote by commenting on their facebook page or emailing email@example.com. Want to learn more or interested in attending a gardening session? Please find your friendly neighborhood green thumbs Liz and Sarah by following the links below.
Need a gorgeous logo designed for your small business or local organization? Need bags or shirts printed for your next event? Please reach out to Candace of Lovely Woods Press for a hand drawn original piece of art, hand carved, and hand printed that you can be proud of. Ditch the clip art logo and set yourself apart as a true original. Find her by clicking the link below.
Alchemy Bread would be nothing without it's amazing customers. Customer Scrapbook is an ongoing collection of the special people who make our community vibrant in unique ways. It's my pleasure to use this installment to introduce you to one of my fabulous regulars Amy of Echo Media Photography.
"I love the sense of community Alchemy Bread has created, it's more than just buying the best bread in the world, it's meeting friends and neighbors while in line and bringing people together in an organic and beautiful way that create memories that will last a lifetime."
Amy is one half of the award winning and internationally published photography team behind Echo Media Photography along with her mother Catherine. Amy a beautiful model and talented photographer. Beyond that, she is a warm, kind and effervescent friend.
I treasure Amy for her easy smile, compassionate nature and unwavering support of small and local businesses. She brought me dinner when I was hurt, and she often has fun things to share like cookies, jams, or oranges from her tree. When she's working she puts photography clients at ease with her fun attitude and sharp sense of style. I asked if Echo Media could help me out with maybe one or two photos of my new product. They came through with an entire beautifully styled photo shoot and supplied me with 130 gorgeous and professional shots to choose from, delivered promptly on the same day. Echo Media provides and range of photography services, specializing in romantic and chic wedding and engagement photos in special destinations around California.
I couldn't more highly recommend Echo Media Photography. Enjoy some of their award winning work by clicking the links below.
You will need a bigger pot.
Last year I came across an article about a group of women in New York who had started a Soup Club, The basic premise being that each week one member would cook a big batch of soup for all the members of the club, taking turns around the group. I found this idea so charming and fun, I asked around until I finally found in my friend Sarah, someone who also had the desire to make it happen. Before long, being the great organizer that she is, we had 7 members in our little club and we set about delivering jars of soup to each others homes and texting back an forth to arrange soup delivery amongst our neighborhoods.
Over time it occurred to us that we needed a central meeting place for our weekly soup exchange.
We settled on Wednesday mornings in a central park, and that was when soup club really blossomed.
Our children became fast friends, and what had once been a scattered grouping of rushed hellos on doorsteps became an epic weekly picnic of glorious proportions taking over one of the large tables in the middle of the park. Seasonal fruit, deviled eggs, lemon bars, brownies, brie, sourdough and homemade lemonade proliferated. Soup was no longer the main attraction, although we did all enjoy the opportunity to flex our culinary muscles and broaden our creativity on a canvas of veggie broth, we also bonded to each other with a fierceness fueled by laughter, exhaustion, and sharing the big and small trials of everyday life over thermos' of coffee on foggy fall and winter mornings.
We did have some gorgeously artistic and classy soups and garnishes. This butternut squash, pear and ginger bisque (by Courtney) with arugula salad (by Hayley) was one of my personal favorite pairings.
Another favorite of mine was Sarah's butter braised root vegetable soup with sourdough croutons and lacey parmesan crisps. The golden color was so stunning! Other points for creativity definitely need to be awarded to Lacey's bright pink beet and pasta soup, it was very memorable and loved, I only wish I had snagged a photo. There were a few editions of tomato soup (Alice's was particularly nice), a couple variations of potato soup, and a few with noodles or beans. I'm so excited for next season of soup club, I think we all raised the bar on each other's cooking and introduced each other to new concepts of deliciousness we hadn't considered before.
So, now you probably want to start your own soup club right? Here are my tips for success.
1. Choose at least 4 people that all have something in common, this makes it easier to meet up. Same neighborhood, same workplace, kids go to the same school, similar schedule. Ideally your lives can intersect on a weekly basis without a ton of additional scheduling to meet. Most of our group are homeschooling work at home moms, so we had the flexibility to meet on a weekday morning. If you can turn your soup exchange into a weekly playdate or gathering, I highly recommend it!
2. How will you communicate? Email? Group text? Facebook group? I like the idea of a facebook group because then you can have comment chains/replies to different topics and it's a fun way to share photos within your group.
3. Dietary restrictions? A few of our members are vegetarian or veggie leaning, so we had a vegetarian soup club. Make sure you are all on the same page so everyone enjoys the sharing experience.
4. Get some big glass jars and a big pot! It's time to make some soup!
I'm including my rough recipe for what I call "Lentil and Farro Soup" and what my kids simply call...
The Good Soup
Plan ahead when making a large quantity of soup. I make my own veggie broth simply by saving odds and ends of carrot, celery, and onion in a bag in my freezer. Once a month when its my turn to make soup, I put all my mirepoix scraps into my slow cooker and turn it on low over night. In the morning, strain and you have a rich homemade veggie broth. This is an affordable soup to make, and the key to the beauty of it is an ingredient that is free, time. What makes this peasant soup taste rich are 3 things: homemade broth, roasted garlic, and caramelized onions. It doesn't cost anything extra, but a bit of extra effort takes ordinary ingredients and makes them extraordinary. The other key to soup in large quantities is adequate seasoning. Never underestimate the importance salt and pepper, Never.
To roast garlic: My favorite way to roast garlic is to cut the heads, place them in foil, drizzle with olive oil, and bake at 450 for about 30 minutes until the garlic cloves are soft and pop right out of the papery bulbs, It's not much work, and your house will smell like heaven, If you are going to roast one head of garlic, you might as well roast six, at least that's my opinion, but I digress.
The Good Soup (A large quantity)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup red wine
4 onions, diced
4 carrots, diced
4 celery, diced
2 whole heads roasted garlic
6 quarts homemade veggie stock
2 15 oz cans diced tomato
2 cups red lentils
2 cups pearled farro, barley, or bulgur.
pinches of fresh rosemary, thyme,marjoram,oregano, and 2 bay leaf.
Take time to slowly caramelize your diced onions in the 1/2 cup of olive oil, this can take up to 35 minute, so listen to some good music, have a glass of wine and be happy while making your soup! I like to chop my carrot and celery while I'm waiting for my onions to slowly caramelize into sweet smelling heaven. When they are lovely golden and juicy, deglaze the pot with your red wine. Let the wine simmer down into a syrupy consistency and then its time to go in with the carrots and celery, plenty (plenty! a handful!) of salt and pepper, and let the mirepoix get soft just for a bit sprinkling in all your beautiful roasted garlic and fresh herbs and stirring about with an old wooden spoon. Next it's time to put in your tomato and let it get acquainted with your other veggies for a moment. When this all has a sizzle going, add your veggie broth, plenty more salt and pepper, and your lentils and grains. Red lentils and pearled grains both only take between 15-20 minutes to cook, but it will take a while for your big soup pot to come up to a boil. Make sure to test your soup for seasoning and adjust as needed. If the flavors just don't seem to pop, you often just need more salt and pepper. You can easily pare this recipe down, but it's worth making a big batch because it holds up so well and is so economical, it's a weekly staple at our house. Sometimes I add a bit of small diced potato along with the other veggies and it's very nice, it is also lovely to add ribbons of greens towards the end of cooking time. It's endlessly adaptable, I hope you'll make it your own!
With Love, Bonnie
A Declaration of Food Sharing
We declare that soup shall be Shared.
Why soup? Soup scales up and Travels well.
Soup is economical, basic, and Nondenominational.
Soup Club is A State of Being, not a monthly meeting.
We are not limited to Special Occasion soup for holidays, births, moving or grief.
Salt your soup. Embrace crushed red pepper.
A black belt is a white belt who Never Quit. Make your soup.
Never Apologize for your soup.
Make soup with Abandon.
Remember, it’s just Soup.
Customer Scrapbook is an ongoing collection of the Alchemy Bread enthusiasts who make our community vibrant in unique ways. I'm happy to use the third installment to introduce you to Candace Jenkins, the jane-of-all-trades behind Lovely Woods Press.
"My focus as a small businesswoman and farmer is to support local products that are created mindfully. Bonnie's passion for quality and creativity shines through in the amazing flavor and texture of every loaf...I mean.. I ate 6 pieces of toast slathered in butter in the past hour with the excuse of doing research for this quote! I can't get enough!" -Candace
If Candace already looks familiar to you, you've likely seen her running the pastured and organic eggs booth at the downtown Modesto farmer's market. She spends her days in muddy boots doing farm work, collecting eggs and caring for free roaming hens.
The first thing that you'd likely notice about her is her easygoing demeanor, folksy charm and wry wit. A wanderer and a dabbler, talking to her is a pleasure because she has so many endeavors under her belt. She spends her free time venturing in the wilderness, gardening, playing guitar and working on her archery skills, but first and foremost she's an artist.
Her personality shines through in the whimsical but rough hewn style of her art. Wildflowers, antlers, arrows and oak leaves reflect the sense of wilderness present in her prints and carvings.
She created a custom stamp from my artwork for my bread packaging. Candace is a thoughtful listener,easy to trust, and a pleasure to exchange creative ideas with.
Aside from carving beautiful logo stamps for the discerning brand that wants that authentic handcrafted feel to their identity, she creates rustic and primitive wall art from reclaimed wood.
Thank you Candace, for making the valley a little more beautiful just by being your wild, warrior, huntress, animal guardian, self.
Follow along with Candace to keep up with her adventures and artistic offerings.
Oh December! Something about it stirs up a pensive mood despite all the hot chocolates and twinkle lights and festivities. I've definitely found myself doing a lot of soul searching and contemplation.
There were many breads to share with friends and to give for comfort in tough times.
There was bread to share at the annual "Peace Feast" at Fremont Open Plan Elementary school, a potluck that begins our winter break.
The Christmas breads sold out quickly! I always look forward to the festive mood of providing holiday breads to you all, this year we had Rosemary roasted garlic and Cranberry pecan.
It was baby Leo's first Christmas! he thoroughly enjoyed the variety of foods, he managed to get a big handful of fancy cheese off the christmas eve cheese plate and quickly cram it all in his mouth which I'm still laughing about.
There were modest gifts wrapped in brown paper. A lunar phase/ star chart calendar and new journal for Sophie, wooden blocks and a learning chess set for Gabe, and a snuggly sweater for Leo.
The wrapping up of the year brings some big changes to our tiny home, one of those being the decision to leave behind public school and start a new adventure with homeschooling. I so enjoy the many friends we've made and community we've become a part of at our school, it is filled with dedicated teachers and parents who I adore. I know I will continue to see many of you, either picking up bread or at the park. Our choice is a heart choice, which in the realm of family, choices often are.
What do we want in a school? A place where learning can happen outdoors in all seasons, a place where the food is warm and made from scratch, a place where play is abundant, learning is self directed and led by the student, and handwork, arts and language are not just available but interwoven into every lesson. A place where we start our day with yoga and mindfulness, walk to the library to find answers to our questions, write and illustrate our own books, and of course, bake our own bread.
Taking a road less travelled can be daunting and a little scary, but also exhilarating.
Here's to beginning again with renewed purpose! I hope this revolution of the earth brings you connection, community, creativity, and lots of love. From our hearth to yours, Happy New Year!
I love making bread with all my heart, but without the people who love to eat it, I'd be alone on this journey. Customer Scrapbook is an ongoing collection of the people who make our community beautiful and vibrant in unique ways. I'm happy to use the second installment of customer scrapbook to introduce you to Stephanie Foster, the clever craftswoman behind Wow Era Jewel.
"Homemade bread isn't in my repertoire but it's so delicious and wildly different from the store-bought kind. Feeding Bonnie's bread to my son makes me feel like a better mom, Can I say that? It's my truth." -Stephanie
Stephanie is a person that I first made a connection with through bread, our mutual friend shared it with her before we actually met. Stopping at her house to bring a weekly loaf was our opportunity to get to know each other. Her porch is scattered with shells, succulents and hanging plants, and her home exudes scents of sandalwood, neroli and simmering spices whenever I would pop by. Her warmth and wry humor make it easy to be endeared to her in an instant.
I often admire stylish people, and Steph always looks effortlessly cool in things like purple velour pants, a handmade blouse and a funky leather hip pack. Her eclectic style is somewhere between rock and feminine so it's no surprise her jewelry straddles that same line. I love how rough hewn crystals and gems jangle against hammered brass on a gossamer chain, it hits that sweet spot between tough, ethereal and delicate that defines modern women.
You can find Stephanie representing the local craft scene every month at Preservation Coffee and Tea in downtown Modesto at the Second Saturday Craft Grab, where she hosts a revolving curation of the best and brightest in unique handmade goods.
November finally brought fall to the central valley of California. Pomegranates and persimmons have arrived, pecans are dropping off our tree and covering our driveway, and beautiful leaves have drifted to the ground in the old neighborhoods surrounding downtown. It's a lovely time for baking, biking, and striving for balance as the days shorten.
Speaking of balance, I took less subscription days in November as we struggle to find ours. With those days off I had a little more time to find some openness...
I took meals and bread to some friends in need due to illness and surgery. We had long afternoon playdates in the park with friends. I baked bread for a potluck, where we listened to beautiful music and socialized with other grownups and kids. We went to a lantern walk with the local Waldorf homeschool group along the wooded creek trail and met some new friends...
I did some spontaneous things, like making chocolate chip cookies on a whim and not following a recipe, and delivering them to friends. Or doing bread deliveries on foot around downtown and stopping to talk to people on the street.
I decorated this crate for carrying bread, and went to the farmers market on Thursdays where we bumped into old friends.
But the main terrifying leap that loomed over the whole month was Mod Shop, I had signed up back in August to have a booth at the craft market at the end of November, I planned and planned and planned, agonizing over the details of what to make, the schedule of how to bake it all and drove my family crazy fretting about it.
It can be scary to put yourself out there. To BE a "brand" and try to sell. The whole thing made me uneasy. On Thursday we ate thanksgiving dinner, and then went home and started to bake. that night I stayed up until 2am making tray upon tray of sourdough Madeleines, and feeding my starter and making doughs and shaping loaves.
On Friday I woke up early and baked loaves almost all day. In between taking them in and out of the oven I made more doughs, zested lemons, roasted garlic and plucked rosemary. As the night went on into the wee hours I decorated cards describing each of the breads with my friend, and we placed my table in the living room and sorted out how it would look. Finally and 2am I went to sleep nursing the baby.
Saturday morning I woke early. I made tray after tray of sourdough Pain d'epi.
I made tray after tray of roasted garlic dragon tails.
I made tray after tray of rosemary lemon zest fougasse. Then I took a shower and packed it all into my car. It smelled great. I was nervous and had a stomach ache. At 5pm I was set up. I took a deep breath and prepared myself to stand behind my table and talk about my bread until 9pm, hoping I wouldn't have to take too much of it back home with me.
At 5:21 I was completely sold out. I'm still trying to process how it unfolded. I saw so many smiling faces, and received so many hugs, I felt the blessed, sacred, loving, heart opening, joyous spirit of sweet community love. I felt magic and electricity. Realness, Genuineness, Sincerity, It was beautiful. THANK YOU for coming to see me.
I'm taking December off from subscriptions to take a quiet pause, hibernate a bit, and think. I'll still be offering weekend breads and specials while I'm dreaming of what to do next, and I'll tell you all about it next month, in our next tiny bakery update. Thank you, for being a part of it all by being here.