Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gluten-Free Coconut Macaroons

 Today I’m cleaning out the crumbs of sweets left from the holidays. Tossing the dried out coffee cake from Christmas morning, the shortbread is in the freezer, and I’m undecided about the coconut macaroons. Maybe I’ll just let them be in the refrigerator a little longer. I may need a teeny little sugar high.

One of the candies I forced my children to tithe after Halloween was Mounds Bars. Mounds Bars always get me with their creamy milk chocolate covering that sinks under your teeth and mashes into the soft white inside. Bits of it stick in your teeth for hours waiting to be horsed out for further enjoyment. It’s never clicked that I could make coconut macaroons myself. Maybe because most homemade or purchased macaroons are like choking down cattail fuzz with dried broom grass. So it was only this year that I decided to research and try them, mostly because (she says) it’s a treat that can be given to friends who need to stay gluten-free.

I know we’re all probably sick to death of Christmas cookies and candies. I pretty much am. But if I don’t post this now, I’ll forget. And who knows? You may need something for a New Year’s Eve party.

I fell in love with this dangerous recipe from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, because it is very easy and tastes way better than any I’ve ever had. The coconut base is moist and tender, crispy on the outside and you can either drizzle or dip them in a perfect coat of chocolate. Her way of making chocolate glaze is genius: another no-fail idea to use for other recipes that require a chocolate glaze.

Chocolate-Covered Coconut Macaroons
Adapted from Bon Appétit (September 2002) and the Marigold Kitchen of Madison, Wisconsin

3 cups (lightly packed) sweetened shredded coconut
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup egg whites (about 5 or 6 large)
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract (I leave this out. Not a fan of almond extract.)
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream

Place the first three ingredients in a heavy saucepan, and stir to combine well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring regularly, about 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is pasty but not dry. (It will look sort of granular at first, then creamy as it heats, and then it will slowly get drier and drier. Stop cooking when it no longer looks creamy but is still quite gluey and sticky, not dry.) Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla and almond extracts. Spread out the coconut mixture on a large baking sheet. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes. (Don’t skip this step – it makes it so much easier to handle.)

Line another baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a ¼-cup measuring scoop, scoop and pack the coconut mixture into domes, and place them on the baking sheet. (I use my hands. You  can also make them smaller.) You should wind up with about a dozen. Bake at 300 degrees until the macaroons until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool. You can even bake them a little longer if you like them a little more crisp on the outside.

Set cookies on rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until it is very hot and steamy (not boiling), remove from the heat, and pour it over the chocolate. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is thoroughly melted. Spoon the glaze over the macaroons, covering them almost completely and allowing the chocolate to drip down the sides. [You will have leftover glaze, which can be refrigerated or frozen.] Refrigerate the macaroons until the glaze sets, at least 2 hours. Transfer the macaroons to an airtight container, and refrigerate or freeze.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Berry Bunny Christmas

Honeysuckle’s babies are fully furred out and the black ones are getting a silver undercoat. We have a lot of trouble focusing on work these days. We must say how cute they are about a hundred times a day.
We had to move that wooden box farther away from the barrier because they quickly learned to hop up on the stool, to the box, over the barrier, onto the chair and down on the other side. They were spending about half their time on OUR side, and any time you stepped onto the porch those who weren't already there came over to greet you.

They love to mob your feet, be cuddled and petted, but we suspect they only associate us with anything salad-y. They're like a wolf pack - attacking food, gorging on carrots, apples, and any amount of kibble we care to offer.

I’ve posted four new videos and you can also watch them on youtube. No thanks necessary. My gift to you. They will make you or - if you have them - your children happy. Have a blessed Christmas. It's time to kick back.

Bunny darts. Constant, incessant activity.

We gave them high bush cranberries branches I found in the woods. They attack them like little sharks.

More berry eating. The berries pop when the eat them.

I love hearing the click, click, click of the bottle when they are drinking and watching the little pink tongue dart in and out. 

We were obsessing about what kind of homes they’d go to and Anita was advertising on Craig’s List. Both of us were worried, and yes, we were praying about who would get them. She received a call from two women who are friends who live on nearby farms. Well, sort of farms. One of them has raises llamas and the other one has a sort of everything farm from kids to cashmere goats. So nine of Honeysuckle’s babies are going to these two places. (Check out Nellie’s blog – Farmovation.) One of them came over last night to meet the bunnies and we sat on the kitchen floor while the babies darted around, leaping one another, nibbling our shoes, and being so dang cute we almost cried.

There won’t be a need for background checks and no-fly list investigations. They’re going to fine. In fact, more than fine. Nelly was wondering if they should place their hutches so they have a view, as in, do they like to look at things or will they be okay in the barn.
I was thinking about the hymn … “all creatures of our God and King, lift up your voices now and sing…”  We were doing a little of that. They leave the day after Christmas and the only thing we won’t miss is the the fact that their poops have risen from the size of Grape-nuts to golf balls. Multiplied by 11 and factor in a 50% miss-the-litter-box number and you might be able to visualize our back porch.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Nutmeg of Consolation

In my kitchen there is a whole nutmeg that’s been hanging around for a long time. I move it from the chopping board to the window sill to a little pottery dish. I am loathe to throw it away even though it may be too old to grate and get any spice out of it at all. I pick it up and roll it between my thumb and fingers. It it a beautiful, hard little nut about two thirds the size of a truffle. (I can compare anything to chocolate in some form.) Pebble smooth. Half butter-brown, half burnt sienna. It has a design, as if the author was beginning to spin a symbol or paint a scene upon it. Fascinating. It reminds me of … good things.
Today, in a piece I wrote for The Washington Institute of Faith, Culture,and Vocation, where good friend, Steven Garber writes and works and has his being, I reflected on something called “The Nutmeg of Consolation” and related it to Simeon in the book of Luke – of whom it is written that he was “waiting for The Consolation of Israel.” This has always intrigued me. It seems to me that in life we need consolation from or in so many things. Even if unspoken, we look around in the corners of our life, in the rooms where we live, in the people we know, hoping for comfort. Here was a man who lived in waiting for many, many years, looking for The One, peering into the faces and arms of those who crowded through the courts of the temple.

At the end of the piece, I quote from a book by Patrick O’Brian, who wrote a series of sea-faring novels set in the early 1800s. I love them and their characters. The Nutmeg of Consolation  is both the name of a ship and a piece of music. In rare moments of peace, Captain Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, the ship’s surgeon, played duets on the violin and cello. On one such occasion Aubrey asks Maturin, “I dare say, what was that last piece?”
Maturin’s reply: “Nutmeg of Consolation.”
            Aubrey thinks about this and says, “That’s it. Those were the very words hanging there in the back of my mind. What a glorious name for a tight, sweet, newly-coppered broad-buttock little ship – a solace to any man’s heart... Dear Nutmeg. What joy.”
            Yes. What joy to know it is coming. The Consolation of Israel will hove into sight, his sails sheeted to the wind, and you cast-away on an island without hope of rescue. That, my friends, is Divine.  To read the entire piece – go here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Honeysuckle's babies eat kale

Four weeks old, thriving and surviving the cold nights. Well, not that cold for November. One of the black ones is the biggest of the ten. We called him Lardo until Anita renamed him Clover. The tiniest one is Iris. She has struggled to thrive and has received special attention, often being carried about in Anita’s bunny bag. She is content to snuggle and sleep in a dark warm place and then comes out to explore. She prefers the Mac and is already good at word processing. 

They love kale and carrots and eat their kibble like there is no tomorrow.
The video here is kinda long, but it’s free antidepressant. It's meditation. Zen. Try it. You’ll feel better if you  don’t have a heart attack from too much cuteness.  http://youtu.be/M-cjep1GU9Q

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eat your carrots

Honeysuckles baby bubbies are thankful for carrots every day, not just on Thanksgiving. We are giving thanks for a lot of things. Good friends for the weekend. A daughter coming home. Orange cranberry relish and a brined turkey. But topping the list - God's little creatures that delight and make us think heaven will be filled with them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Honeysuckle's Babies at Day 17

All the babies have opened their bright little eyes now and are starting to venture out of the nest.  TEN balls of fuzzy cuteness.  Surely heaven will be filled with bunnies. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Restore my soul

This morning I woke to the sound of nothing. I could see the sun had risen and our small bedroom window framed the barren, black branches of an oak. Denis was still asleep when I left the room to make coffee.
Two days ago we left behind most of our work and some of our worries for a retreat at a far place. Kaufman’s little cabin sits at the end of a grassy track on the tip of a small peninsula ringed with oak, white pine and balsam. The lake was still this morning with little ice panes growing out from shore.
For the first two days we haven’t said much. Just existing side by side, eating, sleeping, slipping away the hours with reading and walks. My soul is being jake braked like a semi truck. The mind and body protest a little when you stop that fast.
I’ve tried to prepare myself for this away time by remembering my own advice:  You should do everything you can to include regular rhythms of rest in your life. A day, a week, or longer. Not only does this honor Jesus, it honors your body, your heart and whoever lives or walks beside you. You will be more whole. You will see that, amazing though it is, the world will survive without you. As Tim Keller points out, “At some point you will have to trust God and honor Jesus – who is Lord of the Sabbath – by practicing Sabbath and risk “falling behind” in your career.”
There’s never an ideal or best time to go away. One must intentionally leave things that cry out: “Deal with me NOW or else.” I need to see that leaving those things is a matter of obedience. In doing so we acknowledge that it is God who calls us away to a place where, surprise, surprise, we find freedom in Sabbath rest.
I know how difficult this is for many. I think of mothers with little ones, for anyone with a loved one in crisis, for employees or employers whose careers require everything. My prayers are for you.

If you’ve read this far, you’ll know I’m away and understand why I can’t give you Honeysuckle updates. I know how disappointing this is and how severely crippling this will be to my blog hits. Anita has promised to post to my blog mid-week with photos of the babies. We are missing their eyes opening, their ears lifting and the change from naked little bratwursts to furry creatures so cute you could eat them.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bunny dreams

One week old! They're getting fuzz and their ears are unfolding.


Note one little monkey face, his teeth showing, dreaming of carrots and cartoons.

                                       Father Heathcliff.

Get Off!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Honeysuckle - hungry mother eats a cracker

Honeysuckle took awhile to accept motherhood, but now she is doing great. However, just like any mother of multiples, she needs frequent breaks in the chill of the back porch and indulgences like apple slices, carrot tops, AND occasionally one of my special crackers for which she is so greedy she becomes a galloping white nightmare, chasing you around the kitchen.
Watch her eat her snack here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnmHtOrb6-w

I thought you might also like to see her nest with the babies in it. It is all soft and fluffy and lined with her own wool.  As all mother rabbits will do, she pretends they don't exist and rarely feeds them in front of us. Yet we can tell she's been nursing because the babies have transparent round bellies that roll to the side when we pick them up, like they've swallowed a little white bouncy-ball.

                      Watch them here: They squeak!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Honeysuckle has NINE!!!

 She did it!! This morning about 4:30 Anita was awakened by little squeaks. She has temporarily moved the hutch into her studio because nights are getting cold and sometimes does give birth on the hutch floor, which means the babies need to be quickly moved into the nest so they don’t die from exposure. They are born fur-less and blind. When she turned on the light, there was Honeysuckle, cleaning up baby bunnies. We are happy to report that she is calm, eating carrot tops and doesn't mind if we touch them.
Suddenly having NINE grand-bunnies is making Anita act (or at least feel) like she's eaten ten pounds of white sugar. Especially telling since she’s thinking of passing out cigars.

Of course worries aren’t over. Will Honeysuckle actually NURSE them? There have been calls MaryLou, the very expert breeder and owner of Honeysuckle’s Heathcliff and now a friend to Anita – Marylou is reassuring like a La Leche League coach talking to a new mom. She says that rabbits nurse very quickly. They instinctively do not spend much time hovering over the nest for fear of predators. So they hop on, the babies bounce up and grab a faucet, get a few sucks, and in a seconds mom is gone. However, if it doesn't look like the babies have fed by tonight then Honeysuckle may need a little encouragement about latching on and even get a dose of oxytocin to get things started. So we’ve calmed down a little.

We have a plan in place and if their little bellies are not round by bedtime, Anita and I will hold her and put the babies on the nipples two by two.

And furthermore, we WILL NOT think about what the back porch will look like in a month if all nine babies survive. We will try to get some videos up soon.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cannibal Jack

      We have a challenge. Denis is supposed to carve a jack-o’-lantern with a theological theme. Anita is going to do a bunny-pumpkin. I did mine last night - a cannibalizing zombie eating one of our pie pumpkins. I think it will win. We have friends coming from NY who, I’ll bet will be impressed with our level of sophistication. They will judge.

     This year I saved the seeds and roasted them. It’s easy to do. They are really addictive and good for fiber and lowering cholesterol. This will help balance out the left-over treats, I plan to eat this year. I always debate: should I buy crap candy so I won’t be tempted to eat what doesn’t get passed out. Or buy what I love so I can treat myself for days following. The basket with mini-Hershey bars, Peanut Butter Cups and Mounds Almond Bars are waiting by the front door.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Put the seeds in a colander and rinse them. Pick out the larger bits of pumpkin innards.
Place them in a baking pan. (I use my largest cast iron skillet for this.)
Drizzle 1 T. olive oil.
Sprinkle with salt to taste.
Place in 350 degree oven for 18 minutes. Stir. Check degree of crispness. If not crunchy, bake for another 10 minutes or until desired crunch is reached.

Just these two pumpkins made about 3 cups of roasted seeds.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Honeysuckle doesn't tell

      We’re there again. Not knowing. Feeling her belly. Are they babies or feces? Three weeks ago she spent a happy weekend with Heathcliff. But whether she’s actually pregnant or not, we don’t know. Maybe she doesn’t know either, she’s so demure. But she’s ready. She refuses to use her littler box having turned it (all on her own) into a nest once again:

      She worked so hard trying to pull the curtains down that Anita took pity and gave her some rags and wads of sheep’s wool. She seemed so grateful and spent a long time, as mothers will, arranging and rearranging the environment. For added affect she placed a piece of the wool rug in the corner.
     Her wool has grown so long, she can barely clean herself. She’s overdue for a shearing, but we hesitate just in case. She will need some of it to line the nest on delivery day. Today we gave her a little trim and cut a basketful off her belly and ruff. There’s still plenty left for her to pull, but she is looking at it like “How dare you!”

      If (big if) this is going to happen it will be sometime this weekend. If it doesn’t we may require emergency therapy for dashed hopes. Like large quantities of chocolate, mashed potatoes and many episodes of Project Runway

P.S. She has two litter boxes. The 2nd one is on the floor of porch, she uses it in a randomly scattered rabbity fashion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The rhythm of rest

After market on Saturday, after sorting the vegetables, and fixing a late breakfast, I decided to stay away from the office. When work and office are at home it can be hard to leave it alone. Survival means doing things that need no justification. We should watch birds. Nap. We should make things. Something beautiful from stone or wool or flowers. Unnecessary. It should have no reason to exist other than to please the looker. It’s part of rest and restoration.

I remembered a neighbor lady whose entire yard is ringed with hydrangea shrubs. I wondered if she would part with some of those enormous round blossoms that turn minty green and rust in the fall. Kismet! She was in her yard when we drove past and generously let us have as many as we wanted. (We keep a pair of clippers in the car because you never know when you’ll find weeds that must be gathered, like teasel or cattails.)

For years an old butter churn sat in the laundry room, falling apart, gathering spider webs. I had no use for it, but couldn’t get rid of it. I don’t know why it took so long to understand it could hold a fall arrangement on the front porch. I glued parts together, tightened the screws and waited for it to dry. I put a brick in the bottom to hold it down when the wind blows and stole some of Honeysuckle’s sawdust bedding for ballast. I didn’t have much to work with. The fragile mounds of hydrangea blossoms needed contrast so the dark cattails tucked in among them lifted the design, but it still needed something. I couldn’t think what until I spied a small set of deer horns that had hung on a nail in the garage for years. Somehow it worked. The creamy hardness of the horns hanging down. Their pointy-ness. The jest of it. It’s part of rest and restoration.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Coffee. Obscurantum-itis.

Explaining the odd name of this blog. We live at Toad Hall. We drink coffee, nay, love it. So in a way … I know, you get it. So….. coffee….

Yesterday, I awakened despondent and wordless. (mainly vacation-needy) I know some writers make best-selling novels out of the bleak and pathetic. I only manage to stare out the window. When I mentioned to Denis that all I wanted in LIFE was a cappuccino from Kopplin’s, he said, go, even though it’s in St. Paul – 90 minutes from where we live.

In the warm wool of a coat found at the thrift store, in the white feather-fern across the surface of my coffee, to the sound of leaves kicking along the avenue, and from the blue Mississippi lined with golden trees beneath the arches of the 35th street bridge, I detect beams of Sabbath. Which I seem to need more of these days. Leisure is a necessity.

If Denis had not given me the gift of insisting I go, I wouldn’t be reminded of why I think Kopplin’s makes the best coffee anywhere. I love him. Denis.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quotes from The Dirty Life

          This book by Kirstin Kimball made the Toad Hall Gift List this year, deciding which teaser quote to include was hard. Here are a couple that were too lengthy, so as not to waste them: here they are. Consider buying her book or giving it as a gift.

The following was a discussion I recognize - it was one Denis and I had any number of times, especially during our early years when people thought we were crazy to do what we were doing, too. And sometimes we were.

          When we’d talk about our future in private, I would ask Mark if he really thought we had a chance. Of course we had a chance, he’d say, and anyway, it didn’t matter if this venture failed. In his view, we were already a success, because we were doing something hard and it was something that mattered to us. You don’t measure things like that with words like success or failure, he said. Satisfaction comes from trying hard things and then going on to the next hard thing, regardless of the outcome. What mattered was whether or not you were moving in a direction you thought was right. This sounded extremely fishy to me. (p. 77)

There is a certain insanity that takes us, for me, it happens when I walk into a yarn shop, or the florist warehouse in Minneapolis, and yes, when the seed catalogs arrive in the spring. I must force myself to turn away or leave if we are going to have money for groceries.

           If it had been left up to me, we would have grown one of everything from the catalogs that year. In the winder squash section along, I underlined twelve intriguing varieties, including Candy Roaster, Turk’s Turban, Pink Banana, and something called Galeux d’Eysines, which the text told me meant “embroidered with pebbles.” The herb sections made me completely nuts. How could you NOT order one packet each of saltwort, sneezewort, motherwort, and Saint-John’s-wort, plus a sample of mad-dog skullcap, which the text said was once a folk remedy for rabies? At a buck a pop, how could you go wrong? The whole trick of seed catalogs is that they come into the house in winter, when everything still seems possible and the work of growing things is too far in front of you to be see clearly. Luckily, Mark knew this and had quietly retrieved my list and crumpled it up, so the box that arrived at our door contained the seeds of edible things that are general liked by humans, a reasonable number of varieties, and nothing that ended in wort. We sorted through the packets, separating those that would be direct-seeded in the field from those that needed to be started early, in a greenhouse, in a few short weeks. We did not have a greenhouse, but building one was on the list. (p. 119)

          This is Frieda. She's not from Kimball's farm in NY but, still. She represents another Dirty Life, with our friends at Easy Yoke Farm here, in Minnesota. She's beautiful, isn't she?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pasteurized Processed Cheese Spread

I follow the “Amish Cook,” a syndicated column written by Lovina Eicher, an Old Order Amish woman and mother of eight children living in Michigan. There is nothing special about her writing, as it is nearly always a mere accounting of what the family is doing: what daughter is hanging laundry or sweeping the kitchen, the menu when they visited sister Emma and husband Jacob, what is being grown or canned from the garden, who is cleaning the barn. I think my fascination is with the life they lead, which we think of as simple, or plain, as they would say, but it is no romantic dream-deal.

I also mistakenly assumed the Amish are as strict with their eating as they are with their dress. But in this they’re like a lot of ordinary folk: big on sugar and white bread. I wait for mildly shocking recipes like this.

Church Cheese Spread

6 pounds Velveeta cheese
1 ½ cups butter
8 cups cream
Put everything in a roaster and bake at 200 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes until melted. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent from getting crusty top as it cools. Serve on a sandwich with or without meat.

This was made in large quantity for the lunch after a church service. Once or twice a year each family in the community must take a turn hosting the church service on their farm.

Friday, September 30, 2011

I don't know what they're saying

This week, for one thing, Honeysuckle did not have babies. After all that fussing around. We’re disappointed. I know her followers will be, too. We don’t know what to think. Someone suggested fertility treatment. But couldn’t that result in multi-multiple birth and rather than the normal dozen or so, we’d end up with 25 babies?

For another thing, the ceiling in my office leaked onto my bookshelves. So why was it we got a NEW roof at huge expense this summer? It’s fixed now, we hope, but the ceiling remains discolored and cracked. Not that I look up much.

There were other things, like there not being enough money in Ransom’s account to pay our salary this month.

In spite of the everyday nuttiness of life and other more serious matters, we are leaving it behind for the weekend. The drive to Chicago will be a little space apart and seeing the golden colors of fields and forests rolling past will have a soothing effect. As we pass over the Mississippi River we’ll imagine what it would be like to live at the top of a bluff overlooking The River, watching seasons and barges float past without a  care in the world. The time in Chicago spent with our dear, oldest daughter, and visiting The Aunt, and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert (tickets bought long ago when times were fatter) … all this should give us time to regain touch with the source of our strength:
       Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalms 25:4, 5)

 Whatever the pigs are saying, it, of course, can’t compete with the baby bunnies we were hoping to post. Perhaps the piggy grab-all-you-can-eat attitude is also a reminder that God feeds his children all the time despite our manners and always when we need it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cast Iron as wedding gift

Dear Hannah,

In case you get cast iron that needs to be reconditioned, this is basically how I do it, although I’m no expert. There are other methods that work for people more safety conscious and capable than me. Like electrolysis.

This pan was reconditioned yesterday when I put it in the oven at the same time I ran the oven through its cleaning cycle. Depending on how much residue has formed over its life, the pan will come out covered with light ash and will look very rusty. You will be appalled, but this is GOOD, it will be down to the original surface. At least for the cast iron I have, this method has worked well. Yours came out beautiful.

Next step is to re-season it. First, clean off all the residue with Crisco or canola oil and paper towels. You will be anxious because so much blackened and rusty stuff comes off and you’ll wonder if it will ever be safe for anything edible. (Remember. Cast iron can become a small source of iron in the diet. Better, even healthy for you, unlike the shedding of toxic perfluorooctanoic acid [PFOA] from nonstick pans.) Keep applying the shortening until the towels are fairly clean. Wipe it off, then place it in the oven and turn the temp to 450 degrees. When it reaches that temp, turn the oven off. As soon as you the pan is cool enough to handle, reapply a light coat of Crisco and replace it in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn oven off and leave it in the oven to cool on its own. Wipe it out again. It’s now ready to use. 

For the first few months, before you cook in it, always lightly grease it, and heat it on medium/low for five minutes as you get ingredients ready or post your fb status. This will help the seasoning process along and the surface improve – it will eventually become silky smooth. Then adjust the heat to whatever your dish requires. The more you use it, the better it will get. I promise.

If food has not stuck to the surface, cleanup only requires a quick swipe with a damp cloth or paper-toweling that leaves a very light coat of oil. If you make something that sticks, (some things will) don’t worry about scrubbing it hard. It can take it. I know a lot of folks say NEVER scrub it or use soap, but I do all the time- if needed. Before you put it away, make sure it drys, re-oil it, and put it on low again for a few minutes, and it will be ready for the next use.

Hannah, your cast iron skillet is a WagnerWare #5. Less than 8 inches max. I found it at a garage sale and hate to tell how little I paid for it, since it’s your wedding gift, and after all, you and Thomas are worthy of much more. Don’t know how old, but probably pre-1960’s. It is just right for sautéing onions and peppers, making a 3 egg omelet, or baking 3-4 apples. It will make awesome fry-basted eggs – that’s where you put in a teaspoon of butter, heat the pan, crack in the eggs, quickly add 1 T water and slam on a pot lid. Done to perfection in a couple minutes! No flipping necessary.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The About Margie on Margie's Stuff

It’s a Friday morning in early Fall and I am on the cusp of going live with a new sub-site linked to Ransom Fellowship. Before that can happen, I need to write an About Margie.

 much later in the day. No closer to being done. I don’t like writing this page and find many excuses to procrastinate. Hours have slipped past, and now it’s time to make chile rellenos with the poblanos I roasted earlier today.

The first distraction of the day was addressing the problem of wild grapes intended for jelly, not the syrup they’ve become. One jar for pancake syrup is okay, but ten? No. I dumped them all back into a large saucepan and re-heated it to a boil, stirring, watchful, thinking. I decided to add more pectin to see if it would thicken up. Carefully, I mixed it with a little water, gradually added spoonfuls of hot grape syrup until I could gently pour it into the simmering pot so as not to create one giant grape clot. There was a slight delay and then mayhem. I’ve stirred down many a rolling boil in life, but this was quickly out of control and I was trying to calm Mount St. Helens with a wooden spoon. The frothing bubbles grew into a heaping mound above the pot while I frantically tried to jerk the pot off the burner. Too late. The purple lava flowed over the sides, onto the burner where it smelted to pure carbon, adding a stink to the air, before sinking into the dark recesses of the range, where I never go. Thirty minutes later the mess was cleaned up and the jelly re-cooked. While ladling into the first jar, I managed to pour an inferno on my thumb. This was too much. I was about to cry or break all the jars, when my lifetime collaborator walked into the kitchen and offered to help.

And since that’s where I’m headed ... I may as well state it: now, looking back, thinking forward, life has been and will always be a collaboration with my husband of many years and with others who have joined us along the way. Not that it’s been perfect by any means. But I can’t write about myself without including Denis – his love of me, of hospitality, of theology, the challenges of media and culture … together we’ve tried to live artfully and faithfully, welcoming into our home those who don’t necessarily think or act like Sunday School veterans. We’ve asked ourselves what it means to fully live in this world with it’s many wonders and troubles and yet offer the full story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation.

When I was younger, I fantasized about doing something sensational and heroic, I can’t even think what right now. But I’ve learned that living a life pleasing to God and one that’s unexpectedly fulfilling is found in the ordinary days of waiting for the kitchen floor to dry in lemon-scented swaths on cleaning day, of scanning a cookbook for an apple cake recipe, reading a novel, reconciling the checking account, raising children, serving friends and strangers around a table where we share life stories. In the most foundational way learning to see Christ’s presence in the midst of the most common events not just for others, but for myself.

In this rich scape, which can also be rocky and danger-filled, I’ve been writing about what's funny, what's holy, what's suffering, probably since before you were born. It would be nice to claim that a great deal of wisdom has been seived through life’s boil-overs and rare moments of triumph over fruit-fly infestations, but that might sound arrogant.

This is the direction I stumble in, believing a greater glory will one day be revealed.

P.S. You should also know we have three adult children who helped shape our lives. I’m crazy about them, their spouses, and our eight grandchildren. I was at one time a pre-med student. (Thankfully, God spared me a life he knew I couldn’t live. I learned this observing the punishing schedules of physician friends.)  In another life I would be a stone mason or a gardener. I love coffee and chocolate. Currently, a dash of chronic illness seeps into my priorities, which is often why I don’t answer the phone. Don’t take it personal.

 A friend told me this pic made me look like a Grandma Vampire wannabe. That wasn't what I was had in mind. But my apologies for constantly wearing black and looking like I might bite.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Honeysuckle and Heathcliff

Three and a half weeks ago Honeysuckle went to her house of origin for a little visit while we were all out of town. Mary Lou, who raises angoras, asked Anita if she wanted to try to have Honeysuckle bred again. Remember last time she fought off every suitor, punching them in the face and biting their ears. She was not in the mood. This time she met Heathcliff, a peachy-colored fluffy, gentle kind of guy and he won her heart. Now we’re not SURE (The breeder said she was a little pudgy. Probably from eating my sandals, her latest craze. Hey, don’t pregnant females crave dill pickles) – but she WAS doing this the other day.

           In about four days, we will know if it was all humbug.