Friday, March 21, 2008

You're Welcome

What’s with toadsdrinkcoffee? Well, we’ve lived in a house named Toad Hall since 1981. Toad Hall was an imaginative designation from our children who thought the old house looked like the mansion from the book, Wind in the Willows. This, in part, because they were little people and used to the low-slung adobes of New Mexico. I’ve been thinking we should’ve named our home something more chic or artful like Cascade Creek Cottage and we’d sound, if not look, a bit more charming. But we’re stuck. The “drinkcoffee” half is no surprise. We love coffee. I don’t like to think of it as a need, but I suppose if you have a nervous breakdown from accidentally drinking decaf, you need it, so I confess: regular, steaming, cold-pressed, iced in summer, laced with cream – just the sound of the grinder or the teakettle heating water for the French press – makes me happy. Coffee is a way of comforting friends and strangers. So, if you came by, I might offer you a cup of my favorite, Ethiopian yergacheffe. And finally, there is this: BLOG is a word a toad would probably like – it would sort of remind her of her damp, marshy home and she’d check it out? Right. It’s ludicrous to pretend toadsdrinkcoffee could replace a latte in real space and time, but we’d still like to think if you stepped into our living room or blog you’d feel safe, a little bit at home, and that we could talk about anything. You’ll probably get more of Margie’s voice here than Denis’. And a final warning: I’m not good with commas and I know how bitter that makes some people feel. I suggest a 20 ounce coffee with a triple depth charge, and you’ll be more apt to overlook a lot of things that upset you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easter Week

Yesterday morning, I took a plateful of warm buns down to the coffee shop where I keep a sort of second office. The Caribou Crew were so amazed -- like I’d given them a pay raise or something. Then, last night when, by chance, the manager saw us eating hamburgers in a little café, her face lit up, she came over gave us each a hug, and introduced her boyfriend. We were honored. These are far easier to make than one would think. And holy in their own little way.

Hot Cross Buns

4 cups flour
¼ cup candied fruit. (I hate candied fruit. I substitute ¼ cup raisins and ¼ cup snipped dried apricots.)
¼ cup chopped nuts
1 pkg (2 T.) yeast
2 T warm water
1 cup warm milk
¼ melted butter
1 ½ t. salt
¼ cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
½ t. vanilla
1 t. (or so) grated lemon zest (I use orange)

In a large bowl, mix warm water and yeast. Add warm milk and sugar, stirring to dissolve. Melt butter in a little dish and mix in the egg to reduce temperature. You don’t want to kill the yeast by adding boiling hot butter. Add to yeast mixture. Add vanilla, salt, and 2 cups of flour. Beat until the batter drools off the whisk. With a wooden spoon, stir in fruit and nuts and another cup of flour. Dust the dough really well with part of the last cup and then turn out on the counter to knead. Knead the dough until it springs back when you punch in your thumb. All the while add bits of flour to keep it from sticking to your hands and the surface. Replace in bowl and smear butter all over the top. Cover and place in a warm spot to rise until double. About an hour. Butter 2 cookie sheets or cake pans. Or something. Punch the dough down. You can be aggressive here. Grab little globs of dough about the size of a golf balls, shape into a ball and place in pans. They should not touch each other. With a sharp knife cut a cross in the center of each bun. Let rise about 45 minutes. Heat oven to 400 degrees and bake about 14-16 minutes. Keep a watch. You want them light brown on outside, but done in the middle. Makes about 2 dozen.

Cool for 5 - 10 minutes. While still warm, glaze with following: 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, a little orange zest, orange juice or ½ & ½ (a mixture will do) add liquid until it’s kinda runny – a little thicker than kid’s cough syrup. Put buns on a round platter and drizzle glaze into the cross marks. Immediately eat four or five to test them. Give the rest away.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Savory Friends

Last night we had dinner with Steve and Karen and Rachel. They cook like the apocalypse is coming and we'll never get this again. Lovely. It's not often I eat magenta colored food -- a whole plateful of beet risotto with a side of baby green beans, with crusty whole-grain bread. And chocolate -- a souffle you could eat forever because its velvet smooth layers of cream and cocoa just slide across your tongue. I looked at my bowl and sadly thought of licking it. Sometimes we're able to grab moments like this. When someone cooks for me, sure, it's sweet, but it's as much the dreaming, talking, and yes, Rachel, even the ranting -- that is good, and safe, and right. I pray they will be blessed for welcoming us as pilgrims in need of a brief wayside rest. Margie

Monday, March 3, 2008

Stake the earth on heaven

N.T. Wright had an interview with Time. I suppose it's old news by now -- that he said all this wonderful stuff about heaven. Right out in plain sight, destroying the long-held belief of wraith-like living on streets of gold with bad hymns and droning prayers forever and ever. (He didn't say it quite like that.(,8599,1710844,00.html) I read it and just stared into space for awhile afterwards hoping when heaven happens, or "life after life" as he calls it, I'll be assigned some sort of environmental clean-up job, like scraping oil off rocks in the Puget sound. Or maybe I'll be given a huge pile of rocks and get to build a drystone wall. Seriously. That'd be so fine. Frederick Buechner writes, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” It's wonderful when you get those moments, it's what I want, but that's not my everyday. I'm more patient holding out, waiting with N.T. and others for restoration and consummation. Margie