Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Totally overwhelmed and in the midst of finals right now, so not much time to write. I did venture into my first french bread/sourdough adventure yesterday, which went pretty well. Pictures of all the kitchen adventures to come...

Must return to theology; trying to sort through natural evil and the nature of God. Nothing like a little light theology to get one going in the middle of a week...


Monday, December 14, 2009

today i learned it is possible to make powdered sugar if i don't feel like trekking to the store. blender+sugar=base for icing. yessie made cinnamon rolls last night and we baked them this morning. i am, for whatever reason, in charge of frostings in our house, so that's why the blender and sugar jar came out to play.

i love our kitchen although it is a mess.

i love our life. our home is warm and glowing with light. our animals are snuggly. our hearts are full. our wallets are empty, but that's probably par for the course, yeah?

Friday, December 11, 2009


More of other people's words today:

Dar Williams, Calling the Moon
The moon wanted more of my night
I turned off the engine and the headlights
The trees appeared as they'd never been gone
I promised the fields I'd return from now on

And the moon kept on rising
I had no more to say
I put my roadmaps away
And surendered the day

And I know you'll be calling me soon
And if I don't answer, I'm calling the moon
Calling the moon, I was calling her then
I'm wondering, will she take me again
Oh, I'm calling the moon

When I called the moon back to me
I thought she wanted my beauty
I shone in the best that vanity buys
I covered the path where my life turned to lies

And the moon kept on rising
But I felt nothing at all
She comes when the empire falls
And shines on crumbling walls

Calling the moon, by the name that she chose
As Tennessee wandered in moth-eaten robes
Oh, I'm calling the moon
Calling the moon
Oh, I'm calling the moon

Oh, make sense of me, night
I can see so much from this cold height
The moon said, "Oh darkness, my work is done
I've poured this bottle of light from the sun

But their anger keeps on rising
And they don't understand
I've shown them all that I can
That the world is at hand

And I know they'll be calling me soon
And if I don't answer I'm only the moon
I can see by her light
This one's going out to the moon tonight
Oh, I'm calling the moon

Calling the moon, 'cause I know what it's worth
To tug at the seas and illumine the earth
Oh I'm calling the moon
Oh I'm calling the moon

Dar Williams and I have been friends for about 7 years now, with the natural ebb and flow that comes between a musician and her fans. I first fell in love with the song Iowa,thanks to a friend who added it to a mixed cd for me some years ago, and have found a consistent string of different songs that hit me at different times in my life. Calling the Moon is one of N's favorites, so there is a twofold connection for me.

I spent much of the day today (as I was intermittently "studying") bringing a loaf of ciabatta to life. Correction: trying to do so. It is difficult without a stone, an incomplete recipe, and the wrong kind of flour. So, it is a learning experience, and hopefully we will have some bread on which we can enjoy apple butter, but I don't think it's one for the books. Though, I will say that, as it cooks downstairs, and the apartment fills with that oh so delightful aroma, it smells like all of the elements are there.

I'm in an odd place this evening. It could be because I just left therapy, and am still in the process mode, or any of a number of other factors, but I'm in a sort of odd emotional space. It's nice to just feel it out and know that it's a good place to be (especially for one who has historically not been sure what to do with her emotions). The dog is sleeping on the sofa, N is out buying cookie, dinner, and origami ingredients, and Cat Stevens is now playing in the background. It's a good night.

The bread is done. While it's not ciabatta, it's nice bread, and was quite tasty with a bit of earth balance smeared on the top. I'm gonna go ahead and draw out the (seemingly) obvious parallel: sometimes our expectations and work go into something with an assurance that we know what we are getting. Then, well, we have to substitute other flour, or compensate for no baking stone, and we get something totally unlike the thing we'd expected and worked for. But, what we get is actually so much better, defying those expectations and filling us with goodness. I will eat my hot bread and call the moon, bringing it back down a notch to the glorious simplicity of this life. yes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


“I took my other hand and placed it on top of hers, and she moved her free hand on top of it, so we had this black-and-white stack of hands resting upon my chest.
‘When you’re unsure of yourself,’ she said, ‘when you start pulling back into doubt and small living, she’s the one inside you saying, ‘Get up from there and live like the glorious girl you are.’ She’s the power inside you, you understand?’
Her hands stayed where they were but released their pressure.
“And whatever it is that keeps widening your heart, that’s Mary, too, not only the power inside you but the love. And when you get down to it, Lily, that’s the only purpose grand enough for a human life. Not just to love--but to persist in love.’”
--Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

We are all called, I think, to persist in love.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Catching yeast in the air

As may be quite obvious by now, I really enjoy baking bread. I took five semesters of ceramics in undergrad and fell in love with the process of something so simple and so profound. Baking bread is similar in many ways. Watching the yeast interact with the water and then flour, coming alive and doubling in size not once but twice is a profound experience for me. All of the elements are there: patience, ritual, attention to detail, invigoration of every one of the senses and, at the end, you've got a loaf of some sort of goodness. Every batch makes two standard loaves, so one of my favorite things is to share the second loaf with someone. I have been very intentionally gradual in my bread adventures, keeping things straightforward and letting myself learn gradually. As both a student and teacher, there are so many times when my brain is on overload; baking bread allows me to slow down and soak in the joy of a process that has no expectations or end-goal.

One thing that has proven a bit difficult in the bread baking process is that N is allergic to yeast. Now, while I am interested in the ritualistic practices of eating and sharing unleavened bread, it doesn't really make for very good toast or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So, last night I decided to move forward in my quest for yeast-free starters. N has said before that it is possible to gather the yeast from the air, but I assumed this to be a much more energy-consuming process than it actually is. Turns out, all you need is honey, water, flour, and a bit of time (5 days, to be precise). So, we have a starter going in the kitchen (see the photo album if you would like to view some pics), and it has already started bubbling! Because I was in the mood to make starters, I also made a poolish for a ciabatta--just breaking right out of the box, eh?

Another one of my favorite kitchen adventures is making soup. As the weather turns consistently cooler, I am drawn to the kitchen to mix in whatever combinations of vegetables suit my fancy. While N and I both have strengths in the kitchen, I gladly tip my hat to her as the better cook between us. She can step in and put together a bouquet of flavors that could bring you to your knees in a state of gastronomic bliss. However, when the mood hits me, I can spend a day tossing things together in the kitchen. As my palette develops, and I learn more about how to combine flavors, soup continues to be a great way to experiment. Soup is very forgiving; you can toss something in and, if it doesn't work, you can typically just balance it out with something else. Soup also gets better over time, so a dish that is bland on day one is typically be full of flavor by day three. We make a big batch, eat some, freeze some, and keep leftovers for a week. One of my consistently favorite soups to make is one I have dubbed "kitchen sink" soup, as it typically contains everything we've got on-hand. It's like a one-home version of stone soup, and it usually makes enough to provide food off and for weeks on a very low budget. Last night's creation involved onions, celery, butternut squash, a red bell pepper, turnips, rutabaga, greens, broccoli, white beans, and a couple of slices of bacon that needed to be consumed. This was all served with a side of sunchokes roasted with garlic, thyme, olive oil, s&p, and coarse salt turned out to be a nice meal.

So, the evening last night was spent as a downpayment of sorts: beginning bread starters and making/eating soup that will be best in a few days. My love of this process seems to be a metaphor for something, though I'm not quite sure I want to read that much into it. For now, I think it's enough to just love being in the kitchen, dog sleeping on the floor behind me. As I was working, I found quite a bit of joy in knowing that when N returned from her dinner meeting she would find a home full of good smells and a yeast-free starter beginning the process of fermentation. Welcome home, love...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thrift Store Christmas Trees

As we close the first week of Advent, the tree N found for $8 at our favorite thrift store is up and decorated (though there has been conversation in the past about having the tree up for the proper liturgical Christmas season, from Christmas day through Epiphany), and the colored lights are strung around the curtain rod in front of the front window. We have spent a lot of time in the kitchen lately, which I think is pretty normal for us, but the process of documenting our adventures has made me very aware of how much time we spend in that little kitchen of ours.

It has been raining buckets off and on for the last week. The anticipated snow is instead another heavy drizzle of cold rain and wind. This has kept us inside more than we would usually like to be, but there have been so many good smells filling the house that we really don't mind. The rain, though, seems to also encourage the potential for melancholy. There are times when we forget that our lives here do not translate out, that the safe space we find in our kitchen does not exist outside the walls of our home. I meet with a group every couple of weeks to talk about theology. The conversation has ranged from evil to Plato to Dostoevsky to contemporary song lyrics. Yesterday we discussed three contemporary songs, one of which was "God Shuffled His Feet" by Crash Test Dummies. One particular stanza jumped out at me, though:

So he said:"Once there was a boy
Who woke up with blue hair
To him it was a joy
Until he ran out into the warm air
He thought of how his friends would come to see;
And would they laugh, or had he got some strange disease?

I think this resonated so much with me, because there are times when my relationship feels a bit like this boy's blue hair. I am in a relationship that is teaching me so much about unconditional love and growth. We live very intentionally, and our home is full of love and comfort. The kitchen is almost always pumping out good smells, and the door is always open to friends. It is a place where arguments are settled through respectful conversation and patience. There is laughter and there are tears. I am challenged and nourished and encouraged, both emotionally and spiritually. I am learning to love the person God has created after a lifetime of apologizing. Yet, just as the boy with the blue hair, once I step outside, I am aware that not everyone, even friends, will see the joy.

Earlier today, the weight of it just caught up with both of us. We talked it through, cried a bit, and enjoyed the sanctuary of our living room. Two hours later, I was again in the kitchen, this time with our friend A, who came over to join me in baking bread. It was his first time to bake bread, and as it was rising, we stood and talked for a while about how profound the simplicity of bread can be. We talked about sustenance and the eucharist and sharing food. He was already trying to decide with whom he would share the second loaf in his batch. Some things, it seems, are too good not to share. While the rain rages on outside, and so many things are still in chaos in the world, we are in the kitchen baking bread and basking in the simple marvel of community.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

nom nom nom

yesterday our friend e. was certified ready to receive a call in the pcusa. that's an exciting step in the world of presby seminarians seeking ordination and we were very excited for her (she will make a fantabulous minister). she called to see if we wanted to join her for pizza, but we had other stuff going, so made a date to toast and celebrate later in the evening. of course, after the conversation, all i wanted to do was eat pizza!

yessie made dough :) and i went to the store for goodies to top the pizza with. we don't do much cow milk around here (in fact most days we eat a vegan diet) so i went hunting for goat and sheep cheese. when i came home, i sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, and made a pizza sauce from some leftover canned tomatoes that were hoping for a home in our bellies rather than the fridge. the smells were sooo yummy (nom nom nom!) and the pizzas were great. one had red sauce and the other had a mixture of yessie's homemade arugula pesto and white garlic sauce we purchased at the farmer's market. there are pictures over there in the picassa album.

today is three years of commitment, affection, passion, frustration, joy, sorrow, love, and life with yessie. our days are full of rituals that border on the magnificent and the mundane. i love the coffee we share in the morning, i love the meals we share at night. i love all the conversations, activities, and intimacy that come in between those things, and i love nuzzling next to her at night. it is a joy to share my life with her.

the indigo girls have a lovely little song called the power of two... i appreciate this line: the closer i'm bound in love to you, the closer i am to free

i hope december 2 is a lovely day for you. tonight we babysit vegetables!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I mentioned on the first post that N gave me a bread cookbook for my birthday this year. Tonight, as I was looking for pizza dough recipes (see photos for images of said pizza), I came across this poem at the beginning of the book. It seems to sum up perfectly so many things...

Working in the Kitchen
Edward Espe Brown

What is it, closer than close?
Not impervious or distant, not
stiff or unresponsive. A get-down-
in-the-mud mind, a root-around-
in-the-weeds mind: Food comes
alive with your presence, reaching
out, laboring, taking the time
for flour, salt, water, yeast
to come together, for a bowl
that breaks, the dirty dishes,
a leaky faucet, always more
to cooking that meets the eye!
Each thing asking to be seen, heard,
known, loved, a companion in the dark.
"Take care of the food," it is said,
"as though it was your own eyesight,"
not saying, oh that's all right, we
have plenty, we can throw that away.
Table, teapot, measuring cups, spoons:
the body within the body, the place
where everything connects.
Ripe, succulent fruit, leaves, stems,
roots, seeds: the innermost mind
awakening, fully manifesting. What
are you up to, after all? What is
a way of life that is satisfying,
fulfilling, sustaining and sustainable?
Cups, glasses, sponges, one
body with a hundred faces,
a sticky honey jar, the half-
empty cup of coffee, each asking
to fulfill, each offering the touch
of the beloved.
Enter, plunge into the heart
if the matter: an unknown destination,
an unknown adventure unfolding
with your wits about you and your
no-so-wits. Things emerging in life,
Life emerging in things, no separation.
Concentrating on food, concentrating on
myself, with heart opening, hands offering,
may everything be deliciously full
of warmth and kindness.
Coming from the earth, coming from the air,
a cool breeze, a spark, a flame, go ahead:
cook, offer yourself, hold nothing back.
Cooking is not like you expected, not like
you anticipated. What is happening is unheard
of, never before experienced. You cook. No mistakes.
You might do it differently next time, but
you did it this way this time. Things
are as they are, even if you say too much this
too little that. And if you want things to stay
the same, remind yourself they have no unchanging nature.
"Wherever you go, remember, there you are." O.K.?
Go ahead. Keep moving. Watch your step.

Turns out there was no pizza dough recipe in this book, but it was hard not to find this as that much better. I did find a handful of recipes for pizza dough, though!

At one point tonight we looked up and realized it is the first of December. Other than the odd notion that it is now somehow December, we realized tomorrow is our anniversary. Three years ago tomorrow I asked N out on a date, scheduled a year in the future. We were living three states apart, and with a lifetime of history we began to move a bit closer to merging our lives together. I am amazed time and again how quickly that time has flown. While we decided a few weeks ago not to do any gifts for our anniversary, I did ask for one thing. And, after taking the dog out to pee, N happily obliged; we shared a dance in the living room. Happy Anniversary...