Saturday, January 31, 2009

English Muffin Bread

Because there was interest in my other blog's comment forum for English Muffin Bread, I thought I'd share this recipe, another of Mom's favorites. She made this more than the muffins. It's ridiculously easy. One of those No-Fail recipes from a few generations past.

First, the photos so you can see what I'm talking about.

It makes two big loaves, taller if you use narrower pans than I did.

Beautiful texture.

It toasts up delightfully chewy with a crunchy crust.

Here's the recipe:

5-1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
2 pkgs. active dry yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 cups milk
1/2 cup water

Combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and soda in mixing bowl. Heat liquids until very warm (120 - 130 degrees F. - I do this in the microwave). Add liquids to dry mixture; beat well. Stir in enough more flour to make a stiff batter. Spoon into two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch pans that have been greased and sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with cloth towel; let rise in warm place for 45 min. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 25 min. Remove from pans immediately and cool.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From Six to Nine or What I Did Last Night

When the grocery money runs low the cook gathers her ingredients and, well, go here...

Why is it that baking bread in any form is therapeutic? Kneading the dough, punching the dough, rolling the dough, physical acts that allow venting.

Gently forming the English muffins, dipping in cornmeal, setting them to rise. Carefully sliding them onto the griddle, flipping them over, tenderly so as not to ruin the shape.

The finished product proves the focus, the care, the desire to get outside of myself and make something new, something nourishing, for someone else.

I feel better.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Celebrating Creativity

"Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life."
~~~~ Marilynn E. Robinson, Gilead

Tom and I went to the Good Earth Home and Garden show yesterday where we discovered amazement down each aisle and around every corner. From compost/chicken coop combos where chickens can enter the compost pile to forage in scraps while leaving a bit of fertilizer behind, new-to-us solar ideas, green construction materials, rich reclaimed lumber for flooring and countertops, millet pillows for a good night's sleep, divine smelling botanicals, incredibly efficient soapstone wood-burning stoves, intricate fountains, even wicker coffins (that one creeped me out for some reason).

Marvelous the way we earth-dwellers, children of a creator God, dream and create as well! Made in his image. Particularly appealing to me is the marriage of beauty with efficient invention. Special touches which not only invite lingered savoring of senses but cash and energy conserving, too.

Happily we had another chance to speak with one of our favorite local authors, William Sullivan, who writes books about our area along with excellent hiking guides. He autographed a copy of Cabin Fever: Notes from a Part-Time Pioneer for Tom and me. He and his wife began a twenty-five year cabin building journey, starting small and enlarging as their family grew. Using only hand tools and trees from their land to build what would become their summer home the cabin cost only $200.

Cabin Fever looks like a good read, sitting there on my bed-side stack with Gilead, Life of Pi, and The Way of Chuang Tzu. (Am I weird for reading multiple books at once? Moods, you know. Got to respect the moods.)

Creativity shall be pursued again today when daughters and I visit the Starving Artist Sale where we hope to pick up a painting or two. We've purposefully left walls in our addition blank knowing that eventually beauty would find us. Welcoming spaces await.

I hope you are enjoying a pleasant day, taking a bit of time to rejoice in beauty without...and within.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Reflections

On Inauguration Day, during dinner, this conversation took place around our table:

Cherie: I appreciate what Colin Powell said about President Obama, something about him being a very, very capable man, a transformational figure, who's fully qualified and, "he also happens to be African-American - I put it in that order." I love that. I wouldn't want to be elected solely because of my race - or gender - but because I was fit for the job based on what I had to offer.

Cassie: Whoopi was saying, on The View, how happy she is that there's finally a black President, that Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream has been realized. Then, Sherri Shephard said something like it isn't enough. That it's just one man, just the President. Sherri went on saying something like Dr. King's dream won't be completely realized until there's equality in the House and Senate, too, that there aren't enough black people there. She said there has to be equality everywhere before the dream is fulfilled, or words to that effect.

It seems to me, Cassie continued, that Dr. King's dream will be realized when people stop counting.

Out of the mouths of babes.


President Obama's speech - and its delivery - truly inspired. Grand to again have an orator for President. It's been awhile.

There was one line that jumped out at me.

"To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."

A profound gem in the midst of a stirring speech. In my usual fashion, I plucked that sentiment from its context and personalized it, applying it to my own experiences as a citizen, as a wife and mom, and one who tarries on the earth for a short while. I took it to heart.

It's easy to destroy - homes, hearts, relationships, communities, dreams. But to build takes not only effort, but a different approach to life, a thinking approach, a compassionate approach, a loving approach - and an ideal.

Thanks, Mr. President. We are off to a good start!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Winter's Stride

Winter is for resting. Nature rests, it doesn't find ways to unnecessarily fuss and 'do'. Not that nothing is happening, no, life s l o w l y carries on. Balance is necessary. Winter's rest balances summer's activity.

We intelligent beings could take a clue.

Holiday residue keeps me synthetically puttering, anxious, agitated. It takes until mid-January for me shake off the twitchiness, to settle down and match nature's stride. I'm reminded of that moment in California Adventure's Tower of Terror when I float unable to discern gravity while quickly descending. I ride and ride for that suspension experience.

In between the rush of holidays and the onset of spring exists this sweet resting place which reminds me of that free-floating sensation.

The ability to recognize this state of purposeful rest when it's here, that's the gift. Too often I don't look up from my unnatural mid-winter busyness but swat away nature's instinctual offering, a foolish action which leaves me weary instead of invigorated upon spring's first warming invitation.

Hiking in the woods today the gift of acknowledgement found me, and I welcomed it.

To receive the slower pace now is to invest in spring and summer, for rest restores inspiration and energy for the growing seasons ahead. This is the balance.

To stay in step and not upset the balance by rushing forward, to allow rest when society exhorts agitation, ah, that's the trick.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Four Days and a New President

Nose to the grindstone, hand to the plow, rear in gear for one whole week bought me a chore-lite four day weekend.

This is good.

School lessons completed.

House clean.

Laundry washed, sorted, stowed.

Shopping done, menus devised.

Bills paid and mailed.

Dog washed.

Cars washed and fueled.

Dead petunias and other freeze-killed plants plucked and composted.

Created freedom. Space. Rest.

I know it won't last, I see the storms on the horizon waiting to dump on me. But for today I turn my back on them and take the ease...and choice.

MLK Day offers a three day weekend for our family which we are extending by a day in order to watch Tuesday's Inauguration of President-elect Obama. Historical events ought to have stillness and observance around them if possible, don't you think? A day or a moment? To aid in remembrance?

Always looking for an excuse to have a party in winter (summer presents opportunities right and left!) I'm claiming this weekend to celebrate heritage, equality, and opportunity.

Nothing of importance to say but something of importance to ponder.

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy and President Obama.

Fascinating world.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Cassie and I went to the movies to get away from the house for awhile.

We came home to a burger meal prepared by Tom and Caroline.

Tom carefully pointed out to me he'd made patties for the girls, for the two of us, and the tiny one in the middle was a, "Samburger, just for Sam."

A man and his dog!



Socializing. So important.

New Year's Weekend. Pizza, fresh pineapple, people, partying.

Balance. Good to keep in mind - and heart.

Diggin' in!

Sarah, Tom, and Ben enjoy the lively conversation - well, and the food.

Happy lads.

The girls race on Mario Kart...

...followed by the boys, under Cassie's tutelage.

Good times.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Nothing and Everything

Ominous. I feel a foreboding presence, or is it a strong hunch, vibration, instinct all around. I gather my kids together one by one looking deeply into their eyes to see for myself that they are okay, that all is well, that there is light in their souls.

In predawn darkness I curl my warm body around Tom holding onto what I have, afraid that something or someone will rip him from our home, my life, my heart.

My nervous hands defiantly push open the heavy glass door allowing a breath-stealing gust of wind to whip my clothes, tangle my hair, squint my eyes, fill my nostrils, throat, and lungs. As though life itself were invading, cleansing from the inside out, preparing me.

But for what?

For whom?

And when?

Should I dreadfully fear? Eagerly anticipate?

Is it post-holiday madness?

Time will tell.

(Time has told. I just found out today that my cousin passed away suddenly on Tuesday, the day my premonitions began. Sitting at the table with his long-time wife, he said his leg hurt terribly, dropped, and entered eternity. On top of that, my sister's 38 year old nephew died suddenly - still don't know why. And, my auntie with Alzheimer's may be to the point of having to be cared for in a home rather than in her own home. My uncle has reached the limit of his ability to care for her and it's breaking his heart. That's three. I hope that is that for it is a LOT to digest in one morning. Grieving today.)