Friday, May 28, 2010

No Parking

A man with a blaze orange vest and reflector stripes rang the doorbell this afternoon and asked if I knew anything about the “No Parking” signs on the boulevard along side our house. Sometimes I haven’t much conscience when it comes to lying to city officials. And for a moment I paused. To tell him the truth or not created a little gas indigestion in my heart as the ten commandments scrolled. So I admitted. I put them there. He probably knew anyway.

I think of them as mine, but , I suppose, they belong to some department of the city. (Denis has warned that this day was coming and has never colluded with me.) I was slightly comforted by his crooked smile as he pushed me to tell him how I got hold of them. And that’s where I may have lied, but since I’ve actually forgotten the exact circumstances by which they came to be in our garage, it’s maybe probably possible that what I told him was true.

I explained to him that when we have anyone, I mean any kind of repairman, work crew, or delivery at Toad Hall there is nowhere to park. Nowhere. There is parking 24-7 on our block. So what are they supposed to do? What are we supposed to do? So yes, I put those signs out so TWO random cars could not take two little spaces next to our driveway so the guys who are supposed to be here right now putting in new back steps and sidewalk, but aren’t here, as you can see, (plus we have out of town guests, who aren’t parking there, they’re across the street, see the “Indiana” license plate at this very moment) will have a place to park their truck and equipment when they do arrive.

He grinned and said any contractor can contact the city and get a permit to park if they need to and it is my job to put those signs …

Oh, right. Does he even know how hard that would be? It would, first of all require planning on the part of the contractor, plus he would need to arrive at 4:30 (please, please do not jackhammer my sidewalk that early if ever) to have even the remotest chance of getting a parking place. And well, it’s just stupid.

So, I said defiantly, are you going to arrest me?

He said, “You’re just trying to be nice, aren’tcha? I thought of leaving the signs, but I can’t really. They’re my signs.” (Still grinning though I wasn’t sure why.) “These guys, it’s their responsibility to figure out parking and if they don’t get the permit, they can pay the ticket. You don’t have to worry about them.”

“How did you find out the signs were there?” I asked. (When is an official ever around to witness an actual felony?) And he said the police called wondering if there was some work going on they didn’t know about. It looked suspicious to them.

So he’s out here, johnny-on-the-spot? For a long time, years maybe, each time I used them Denis said I shouldn’t and I said whatever. Now my signs are gone. Except for this one. ONE. I have one left in the garage and I’m keeping it. Think of how many guys I helped get ticket-permit Free Parking? But I suppose now that I’m a target and probably under surveillance the fun is over. But so is the temptation and that is probably good.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Putting it to good use

Just back today from Denis’ graduation from Covenant and a short side trip to a B&B for rest and celebration.

After looking for a coffee shop the last 250 miles, (WHAT is WITH the I-90 corridor in southern MN anyway?) we careened into Caribou’s for our drinks. Today the young woman behind the counter greeted us and asked where we’d been. When Denis told her he’d just graduated. In what? she wanted to know.
A Masters in theology.
And this was her loud and wide-eyed response:
That’s TOTALLY bonkers. That’s BONKERS!
You mean, like you could talk about polytheism and monotheism and all that stuff?
I MISSED Passover this year, I’m not Jewish, but I wanted to experience it. I’ve never been around Jewish people. I’m sort of INTERESTED in spiritual stuff.
So, could we get together some time and talk??
(Does she think we’re Jewish?)
I couldn’t stop laughing. Life is sometimes amusing and so bizarre. If I needed an excuse for my lattes, which I don’t, this would be it… we don’t just get caffeinated at the shop one block from our house we get to love the spirit-seeking, patchouli-reeking baristas, too.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bread for Work

Friday, May 21. We’re in St. Louis today. Denis has picked up his cap and gown. We’re making bread deliveries: Cranberry & Wild Rice. Seven Grain. Cheesy Chives & Potato. Fresh from a bakery in Rochester. There are people in the Admin department who make this place happen and they deserve a lot more than a loaf of bread as a thank you. Their patience, kindness and diligence has been part of what has made his seminary experience outstanding. What they do is a great work of being faithful in the ordinary and everyday. It was a pleasure to meet some of them and say thanks for all you do.

Denis has slowly been working on a seminary degree for the past number of years. Covenant has an excellent distance program so he could take courses at home in addition to getting down here for special weekend classes each year. Sometimes I came with him ostensibly to find space away from Toad Hall to find uninterrupted writing time. Not that it happened. I often ended up with friends. Or driving clear across town to that special coffee shop for what I can’t get in Rochester. Once we were snowed in at a hotel. Crazy. Really humbling because I’m such a braggart about how much snow we get in Minnesota.

Denis has been equally blessed by both his professors’ wisdom and their humility. Their mentoring and example has challenged him to think outside his normal interests. Christian/Muslim relations. Abuse. History of the church. He wouldn’t have traded all the travel, the mountains of books, the billion papers written late at night, or the sacrificed brain cells for anything in the world. Except for me. He’d trade for me. Tonight he graduates.  I’m proud of his accomplishments. We also have a lot of friends who’ve been awfully tolerant of us through this journey. We're really grateful.

In Denis’ words:
My studies have provided me with three rich graces. The chance to study under godly, wise scholars whose love of Christ and knowledge of Scripture is remarkable. The chance to reflect on what I believe in an organized way. And the chance to have my walk with God deepened as I have been challenged anew to see all of life and culture under Christ's Lordship.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Romancing Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle just hopped past where I’m working on the porch. She needed a drink after nibbling the rubber seal off the door to Anita’s studio. She’s doubled in size the last two weeks, (or is that bloat from rug fringe and Denis’ slipper toes?) and when she bounds up the ramp and bangs into her hutch you know it. This latest addition was added to the household because angora bunnies produce beautiful wool that can be spun into fine yarn and as a fiber artist, that is Anita’s intention. Whatever Honeysuckle’s value in that department, she has certainly been another interesting individual to indulge.

At first she was going to live in her hutch in the yard, but we’ve made room for her on the back porch where she roams freely using her litter box when necessary, eating dandelions, apple branches and rabbit kibble. As long as someone is around to make sure she doesn’t gnaw on electric cords, we let her in the house. She steadfastly ignores me unless I offer her a  banana slice which she will eat in any condition, peels and all. This does spare me from freezing them only to pitch them out six months later because I didn’t make banana bread after all.

She likes my donkey tails houseplant and I’m pretty lazy about removing her from it. Forgive me, dear Mary Jane, but I plan to sacrifice it to Honeysuckle even though almost every day the plant reminds me of you and all you suffered. But some day I’ll be where you are again and we will probably make gardens even more beautiful than the one you had in Durango.

I think it is awfully indulgent when Denis laughs as she pulls books off the bottom shelf in our front room and eats their spines and corners. (You would think this slightly inconsistent, too, if you knew how precioussss his books are.) I decided to buy her some special books when we stopped at a used bookstore so she could lay off the Tom Clancy spy novels. They can be her very own and she can snack on them whenever she wants. The cheapest paperbacks were bodice rippers and I carefully chose three for their titles: Hot to the Touch, Awaken to Pleasure, and Forbidden Temptation. When I went to pay I was going to tell the guy-clerk that they weren’t really for me, they were for our friend’s rabbit who liked to eat books, but then I thought that if he did care about good writing he’d just stare at me with pity. A rabbit. Like, right, lady.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Off! to the pharmacy

Today, I’m trying to psych myself up for my first self-injection. I’m no shot-sissy, I say. My thighs ought to be good for something other than cat laps. Blood, amputations, scrapes and wounds are interesting especially if they’re yours. Others may faint, not me. But I did stay in bed until 9 a.m. reading, talking on the phone, checking fb. Finally showered. Am considering long involved post on the resurrection of bodies, aging with grace, restoration and blah, blah, blah. I know I’m dodging a train when organizing iPhoto sounds not only necessary, but appealing.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cast Iron No-Knead Bread

I like to think that the scent of bread baking in my kitchen has the same effect on people as David’s harp playing had on King Saul. The power to soothe, to delight, to make a bad day if not good at least much better. Even if the recipe sounds more like something Saul would have thrown at the wall.

Jerram Barrs shared this recipe with me. It's a bread he makes weekly in their Dutch oven. I hadn't heard of it and have been so smitten I make it almost every week, too. Not only is it super easy, it is phenomenal with a hard crust and flavor you’d associate with artisan breads and brick ovens. In fact one chef said you can’t make a bread like this unless you have a special oven that costs, whatever. A billion dollars. But! You can make a loaf of this in your own oven with a Dutch oven for pennies. I love that.

I’ve never made a video before. I’m sure you’d not guess if you watch this. It’s so… What strikes me is, well, I may as well confess some of them now. I must’ve mentioned how economical this bread is about 20 times. Sorry. That’s not really what motivates me in life, so I don’t know why I emphasized it. And then some alert person will note I wore the same clothes both days. What a schmuck. Now you know. I don’t change every day, unlike my granddaughter, Isobel, who switches outfits at least five times a day, not an exaggeration. But, I mean, why should I? Save on laundry. It's not like I work for Bloomburgs. Who sees me anyway? Plus I'm never dirty. Well, hardly ever. And I don’t sleep in them either. I don’t.

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Cast Iron No-Knead Bread

1 ½ cups warm water
¼ tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
3 cups flour plus more for dusting. (A combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour may be used.)
Corn meal for dusting.
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12 to 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. [even up to 22 hours]
  2. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle it with more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
  3. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently shape it into a ball. Generously coat a clean dish towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Put the seam side of the dough down on the towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 1 to 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  4. At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, heat oven to 500 degrees, then turn oven down to 475 when I put the bread in to bake. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and lift off the lid. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. The dough will lose its shape a bit in the process, but that’s OK. Give the pan a firm shake or two to help distribute the dough evenly, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  5. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for as long as you can stand it before slicing.