Music Monday

My mother taught me how to love music. A love affair fed by Alanis Morissette and The Cranberries that has now evolved into a genuine love for all things acoustic, indie, and folk. I’ve been listening to a bunch of different things lately, and I figured it might be fun to share some of the bands I’m into with some other music enthusiasts. So here’s my top ten winter bands (not that they came out with anything this winter, but I’ve been listening to them a lot this winter), and you should check them out. Hopefully you’ve heard all of these bands! Let me know what you think and leave me some suggestions of bands I just HAVE to listen to!

1. The Head and the Heart — amazing band. folky and acoustic, brilliant lyrics. Saw them in concert on Halloween.

2. Local Natives — these guys have been around for a while but released a new album recently. amazing live performers.

3. The Civil Wars — everyone’s heard of them, but their new album is actually just magical. MAGICAL.

4. The Staves — these three sisters toured with Bon Iver and sing harmonies that will melt your soul. Seriously.

5. The Oh Hellos — a very folky band from the States that have some of the loveliest lyrics out there.

6. Ben Howard — this Brit knows how to melt hearts. His voice is like silk. For real.

7. John Lucas — a small up-and-coming artist who has some pretty great tunes available on noisetrade.com (for free!)

8. Flogging Molly — Irish punk music. Enough said.

9. City and Colour — always a favourite here in Toronto, and his new album is just spectacular.

10. Dustin Kensrue — from Thrice, this guy has an amazing new worship album out that is mind blowingly fantastic.

So there you have it. My winter top ten is there for the taking. Leave me some of your faves in the comment section below. I’ll let you know what I think! Also, in case you didn’t realize, the video I’m feature with this list is from The Head and the Heart– Down in the Valley. This version was filmed in Toronto, in front of the Opera House last year. Awesome!

Until next time,

Lena

au revoir

I must go,
because the mountains
are signing my name
over the wind
so loudly they grow
hoarse with the strain,
and my heels are
sore. I cannot run
fast enough.
I must go,
because you are gone;
you’re not the same as
you once were,
but rather weak
with the weight of your
misgivings, your tortured
mind. You cannot run
fast enough

to keep up
with me.

I must go.

Traybakes, Scones, and Sunday Tea

20140119-193450.jpgSomeone once said “time passes strangely on Sundays” and it’s true. No matter what you do, the day seems longer and it’s over before you know it. Sunday is by far my favourite day of the week. When I was in my second year of university, a classmate of mine was talking to me about her spiritual disciplines. She told me that she often struggled with feeling overrun with busyness and stress, but that she felt convicted and challenged to take a day of rest. Sunday was her day where she did no schoolwork, and just spent the day with family and loved ones–just relaxing. I marvelled at this since my Sunday’s were usually made up of last minute scrambling to finish assignments that were due the next morning. I decided to take a page from her book and try this “Sabbath-keeping” for myself. I’ve never looked back. When Sunday rolls around, I put down my work and rest. It’s tremendous the good it can do to ones soul. I feel more energized and prepared for the week ahead of me, and I feel less tired and run down. When I don’t take my day of rest, I feel exhausted and worn out. There is something to be said for taking a break from the cycle of work-work-work.

This afternoon I decided to do something that always makes me feel happy: baking. I was missing Ireland terribly today, so I put on some British sit-coms and made some chocolate biscuit cake. In Ireland, this delectable treat was everywhere. Local cafes and bakeries always had it in stock, and we often had some with tea (which was at least three times a day). It quickly became one of my favourite treats while I was in Ireland and I brought lots of it home (albeit it was mostly glued to my hips by the time we got on the plane…). When I got home I found a recipe for it from an amazing site called edible-ireland.com and got to making some right away. It quickly became a hit among my friends and family! I encourage you to make some and really experience this delicious treat! So delicious that Prince William had it made as his grooms cake!

Chocolate Biscuit Traybake

Adapted by Lena Rigby from: edible-ireland.com/2012/06/21/chocolate-biscuit-cake/

7 oz  semi-sweet Bakers chocolate

4 oz  bittersweet Bakers chocolate

½ cup of butter

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

½ package of digestive biscuits (I use either President’s Choice or McVities)

Boil a pot of water over the stove and place a heat-safe bowl on top to create a double boiler. Melt the chocolate and butter in the bowl until smooth. Remove the bowl from heat and stir in the sweetened condensed milk. Break up digestive biscuits into thirds and fold them into the mixture. Pour the mixture into a loaf pan lined with Saran Wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or over night, until set. You can also top this treat with sea salt to balance out the sweetness. Cut into small slices, as the cake is very rich. Feel free to freeze the extras or store in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy! 

20140119-193508.jpgI also made some chocolate-strawberry scones and enjoyed them with some lovely Bewley’s tea. Recipe for those will come soon enough! One of my roommates came home just in time to enjoy these just as they came out of the oven! They’re lovely when paired with some strong tea and jam. A delightful sabbath Sunday is drawing to a close, and I’ve got just enough treats to keep me full for the rest of the week! Have a cuppa and enjoy the evening!

Classic Chocolate Chip Shortbread

I have a confession to make: I adore shortbread cookies. They’re way better than gingerbread, sugar cookies, and pretty well every other cookie. What could make these divine treats even MORE delicious? Chocolate chips, of course! 

I used to make tons of these cookies to give away, but stopped making them for a couple months. When exam season hit I started to cope in the best way I know how: stress baking. The chocolate chip shortbread recipe was resurrected and the result was delicious. 

Making shortbread can be a little tricky, but I found a great recipe from http://kirbiecravings.com/ that always yields yummy cookies. I dipped mine in melted chocolate and refrigerated them overnight to add a little flare, and feel free to go crazy with cookie cutters! Take a look, and get baking! 

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Sojourn

Moses was delivered out of Egypt by the mighty hand of God, rescued from bondage and slavery, and stumbled into the desert. The Promised Land lay before him and yet he knew he would wander many days (years, decades) before ever laying eyes on the border of that haven. Fighting with grumbling Israelites in the wilderness, begging God to provide some appeasement to their lot, Moses wasn’t just lost in the wilderness. He hadn’t simply taken a wrong turn or forgotten the way home. He was sojourning. This was his life.

Moses wasn’t new to the whole “wilderness wandering” thing. We remember his flight from Egypt after the murder of the Egyptian, and his meeting with God in the burning bush. It was in the Midian outback, if you will, where Moses was shaped and primed for his life’s task. Moses would deliver the Hebrew people from slavery and bring them to the land Promised to them. Not a simple task for a tongue-tied shepherd with zero self-confidence. It was through the power of the Living God and through Him alone that Moses was able to make his first appeals to Pharaoh. Power that revealed itself to Moses in the desert, while he was sojourning in a land not meant for him.

Aside from a synopsis of the Exodus story, I remind you of Moses to prove a point. Sometimes, we’re sojourning, just as Moses did. Sometimes we’re not where we’re supposed to be, where God has called us to go. Sometimes we are in the middle of things, living in a place that is only meant to be temporary. And in that desert, that wilderness, that outback, we are set up and primed for the work of God.Over the past couple of weeks I’ve found myself saying “I’m just sojourning here.” My loved ones understand exactly what I mean when I say this. I am called to another place. Toronto is not where I am meant to be. I am on my way to my proverbial Promised Land.

The Lord has asked me to step out in faith and submit myself to His will for the purpose of seeing the Kingdom advance. This call has lead me to apply to work with a missions organization that serves in the UK and Ireland. I’ve served in Southern Ireland for the past two summers, and I’ve witnessed young people commit their lives to Jesus. Let me tell you, no pay cheque will ever be big enough to shadow the beauty and reward that comes from seeing someone commit their life to Jesus. They see that life is not about them. They understand that there is more to life than this world. They know they need a Saviour. Ireland is a land ripe for revival, full of the most beautiful hearts I’ve ever encountered, and overflowing with beauty. I had never felt what “coming home” was like until I stepped out of a 12 seater van and into the Irish countryside.

Toronto buzzes and flies while I dream of those mountains. Every time I walk by the CN Tower (nearly every day) I frown and pray it would turn into the Rock of Cashel. “There’s a tourist attraction for you, Torontonians. Enough of this pointy thing.” I feel tired of being in a place where my heart is restless. My feet are not grounded. My hands are not doing the work they were created to do. Then  I think of Moses, wandering in the desert, slowly making his way to the Promised Land. In doing so, he fulfilled a great call on his life, and was prepared and moulded for the blessing ahead. His sojourning was not wasted. It was not aimless. He was not lost or forgotten. He was prepared, stretched, blessed, and met with God in one of the most intimate exchanges that has ever been recorded.

Sometimes the road from where we are to where we’re supposed to be is longer than we would like, but we are never left to find the way ourselves. Our wandering isn’t wandering at all. We’re upheld in our temporary home and carried to our Promised Land. God makes true His promise from Psalm 146: “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless.” We are dear to His heart, fellow sojourners, and we are far from lost.

How to Make Sure Your Barista Loves You

As many of you know, I am a complete coffee snob. I love independent cafes, fresh tamped espresso, and the smell of steamed milk. I love coffee so much that I work with it for a living. I currently hold the position of head barista at SPoT Coffee in downtown Toronto, a stone’s throw from the Roger’s Centre. I see people from all walks of life coming into the cafe and I honestly adore serving them. I’ve made lattes for professional baseball players. web designers, and actors, and it’s a rewarding experience. We also reach out to our local community by donating to organizations who work with the homeless. My co-workers and I spend our mornings with some of the greatest people. Our regulars come in early before their day’s work to talk to us over coffee. We hear about their lives, we laugh together, and I’ve made some pretty great connections with people who live in the neighbourhood. I can safely say that I genuinely love my job.

That being said, it has it’s share of frustrations. There are little things that customers don’t usually notice that actually make our jobs considerably more difficult. This might be easy to dismiss if it weren’t an overwhelming pandemic in the cafe world. If you’ve worked in a cafe, you’ll understand. And if you’re a mindful customer, you notice when the patron in front of you is inflicted with this syndrome. So here I am, giving you a list of things you may or may not notice when you’re buying your skinny half-sweet split latte, to help you win the love and adoration of your local barista.

1. Wait to Order Your Drink if You’re on the Phone.

I get it. You’re walking to work or in the middle of talking to your mom and you’re just jones-ing for a chai latte. So you stick your iPhone between your cheek and your shoulder and try to order. Or you’re texting your boyfriend about dinner plans instead of talking to who’s in front of you. I think it’s safe to say this is one of the barista’s biggest pet peeves. First, you’re not even making eye contact with the person you’re ordering from, and we both know your phone isn’t going to make your latte for you. Secondly, we like to give you more than just a cup of coffee. For people like me who work in the service industry, we LIKE working with people. The smile, the genuine interest in how your day is going, and the help we can offer you is included in the price of your 5 dollar drink. Also, it’s just common courtesy. So next time you get a phone call in the middle of the line, just take a second to finish up your call. We understand. And we’re rather happy to wait.

2. Hot Coffee and Garbage Does Not MIx

Pouring your coffee in the garbage can result in a melted bag, full of holes, which then leaks out coffee/trash sludge that ends up all over the floor and my jeans. Please for the love of Pete, whoever Pete is, just ask us to give you some more room in your cup, and you’ll be on your way. We don’t bite!

3. Wait Your Turn

Often we forget to order everything we wanted when we get to the cash. Somewhere between skinny vanilla and extra-hot no-foam, we forget to ask for that glass of water to wash it all down with. So we go back to the front of the line and shout to the barista while she’s in the middle of helping another guest, to get that glass of water. However, you’ve just thrown off the order she’s working on, interrupted the person who waited just as long as you, and chances are you’re still going to have to wait for that water. I know it sucks, but you have to queue up like everyone else.

4. Know Where You Are

I luckily do not work at Starbucks or Timmies, and we don’t have frappacino’s or french vanilla’s. However, we do have a massive menu of delicious drinks that we’d be more than happy to make for you!

5. Remember What You Ordered

This is actually a really common issue. It’s like we get amnesia between the register and the bar and all of the sudden we’re taking Bob’s Tall Mocha instead of the tea we ordered. Then people get upset that their drink is gone. Then we have to remake it. Then we have to dump things out. Then we’re behind by three chits and everyone is left waiting longer than necessary. Just remember, if I call out a large coffee and you ordered tea, it’s not your drink. But I can assure you yours is on the way!

6. The Hutch

This is the last one before I sign off for the evening, and it’s a big one. The hutch. The stand. Whatever your local cafe call’s it. It’s the thing with the milk pitchers and the sugar packages on it, where you can dress up your americano in whatever way you please. Please, please pleaseeeeeee read this part closely. Sugar and cream doesn’t not belong all over the hutch. When you spill cream and sugar, we provide napkins so you can clean up after yourself. I know it may seem small, but it shows that you respect the person coming in behind you, as well as your barista. We have to clean up after ourselves at home, so we should do it in public too, right?

Anyways, these are just a few helpful tricks to ensure that you’re barista’s adore you. Use these tips and you’ll be sure to become their favourite. We love serving you, and we love even more when you respect our jobs. We want to make every guest feel comfortable and at home, and we need everyone to do their part. All this being said, thank you for loving coffee just as much as we do! On behalf of barista’s everywhere, we look forward to making you your next cappuccino! We’ll even try our best to make your day a little bit brighter.

Until next time,

Lena