Breakfast Sandwich Rampant

Breakfast Sandwich

Mark stands at the counter, carefully prying English muffins apart, loading up the toaster. He peels plastic sleeves from slices of processed cheese, splitting each square into triangles, and stacks them, at peel-able angles, on a plate.

The plate is Fiori ware, cream colored, thick, with raised bunches of grapes circling the rim. It is one of an eight-plate set we bought at Hartstone, and Hartstone, I hear is shuttered.

That makes me sad. When we moved here, it was the last standing pottery still using AJ Wahlco machinery–the last vestige of Mark’s first and well-loved career. (This gives me pause: if AJ’s hadn’t closed, a victim of the waning ceramics industry in the States, of manufacturers outsourcing and moving production to places where the labor work, gratefully, for pennies on our US wages, would we be living here? Would Mark have been content, or would the law school urge still have driven him? Like naggling a cold sore, it’s an unproductive but weirdly enjoyable thinking path; we’ll never know, of course, and all the riches of the last 15 years are still secure.)

I am cracking eggs, admiring the fragile brown shells that almost shatter when I tap them on the thick lip of the ceramic bowl. These eggs, free range, are so different from the ones we used to buy at Quality Markets or Tops, delighting in the sale prices–look: 39 cents a dozen!

Then I read about the beak-chopping, scant-movement conditions of industrial egg farms. Then I shared an office with Senti, whose life journey has taken her many miles further than mine has taken me, from a childhood in the Naga province of India, to marriage to a US Marine from Ohio, to the beautiful little farm where she and her family raise chickens and harvest honey and eat salads still warm from the sun that shines on her garden. In India, Senti majored in English literature, and she met tall, handsome Gary; here, she shared an office with another tall, outspoken, female English faculty, and shared, too, the joys of free range eggs.

I spill these eggs into the bowl; their yolks are deeply colored, Crayola orange. As the toaster pa-chumps its golden brown harvest of muffins, I use the little whisk-y tool my mother-in-law, Pat, gave me.

It was a sale item for her ladies’ church group; a lot of my favorite kitchen utensils–this whisk-er, sturdy little paring knives with blades that never seem to blunt–arrived in my utensil drawers from sales like that.

I whip quickly; the eggs grow into a lemon-y froth, and I pour them into the big no-stick frying pan. They sizzle in a bath of olive oil and butter. In the middle of the pan, the froth immediately gels. I lift that with the spatula and tilt the pan so liquid egg runs below it.

We are making breakfast sandwiches, making what McDonald’s calls Egg McMuffins. These are a family favorite, and as we assemble, working smoothly together, I try to remember when we as a family first decided these were great—and to recreate them at home.

I can’t recall.

I do remember one Father’s Day–it may (in fact, I think it was) have been the Father’s Day we gave Mark this very jumbo-sized frying pan, for this very purpose: sizzling up tasty, filling Sunday breakfasts–looking in my wallet, finding a ten dollar bill, and running to McDonald’s for a sack of English muffins. I got a variety–Canadian bacon, sausage,– and brought them home to the old farmhouse we were renting that year.

The farmhouse had actually been an inn in the 1820’s; it welcomed and sheltered us while we pondered whether to buy and where to perch; that morning, we sat at the table in the big old dining room and devoured the entire sack of sandwiches, Mark, Jim, and I, and wished we had more.

Who knows–it may have been that day, too, that one of us said, “You know, I bet we could make these,” kicking up experiments that led us to a beloved breakfast staple.

The eggs are almost done, still a little bit liquid just on top, and I turn off the heat and let them settle. The last of the muffins pops out of the toaster; Mark grabs it, tosses it, blows on his hand where he touched the sizzling metal, and slaps it onto the counter, quickly spreading butter, which melts into a golden brown glaze.

I line up six torn sheets of aluminum foil and open a muffin onto each. Today’s foil is pristine, new from the box. I save lightly used foil, though,–I’ve always done so– and Mark, when we first married, found that strange and endearing.

He’d call me “Jean”, after my frugal, Scottish mother, when he came into the kitchen and found me gently wiping off a sheet of used foil. I’d let it dry and fold it up for a second life covering a casserole or wrapping around a soaked paper towel to transport a bouquet.

“Save that foil, Jean!” he’d tease.

I would.

I set the ingredients out on the counter; we work together, assembling: triangles of cheese on top and bottom muffin halves; eggs on the bottom; on the top, Canadian bacon.

(Canadian bacon! I can still remember the first time I tasted it, as a very young child, and my surprise at its absolute goodness. And my surprise at what my mother said: “You look like you just heard the angels sing.” It was an unusual remark for her to make, unusual in its depth of noticing; it tickled me. That insured that Canadian bacon went on my childhood list of Wonderful Things to Eat–along with pancakes, corn on the cob, brownies with white icing.)

We flip the muffin halves together, use the foil to wrap them tight, and place them on a sturdy cookie sheet, which I slide into the oven. Mark goes upstairs to see if young James considers home-made Egg McMuffins a good reason to roll out of bed at 9:00 AM on a Sunday.

He does.

I take my coffee outside to the little table in the carport, sit and sip while the sandwiches coalesce in the 350 degree oven.

A memory niggles…one weekend, after the move to Ohio, we went back to New York to visit Mark’s parents, and we slapped together a huge batch of these babies on Sunday morning. The family gathered. I can’t remember the occasion–was it Easter? a birthday?–but I remember the laughter, the pile of silver wrapped sandwiches diminishing, and our nephew Jeremy, a true enjoyer of life, saying, “A little bit nicer than what you get at McDonald’s, eh?”

It doesn’t take long for the cheese to melt, the flavors to blend, the sandwiches to warm enticingly. Mark takes out the old, careworn black oven mitt, and slides the cookie sheet onto the range top. We grab plates, pour juice, and sit down for a Sunday morning breakfast together.

Jim narrates a couple of scenes from TV shows that the morning’s repast brings to his mind…a meal on “How I Met Your Mother,” an incident in the coffee shop on “Friends.” Mark talks about the contractors who will seal the driveway and about the unexpected, unwelcome dry rot damage he just discovered around the big kitchen window. I slide an article across the table about the World War I posters on display at the Ohio Statehouse, and we decide that we will go, that very afternoon.

Even as I savor the sandwich, I think about how quickly this breakfast will become a memory, and about how fixing this breakfast has evoked memories of so many people and places in so many different eras of my life–from very young child to silly young wife; from a cramped galley kitchen in Mayville, New York, to the expansive, old-fashioned kitchen in that old inn, to this well-loved space we inhabit today.

A mundane breakfast sandwich: a trove of vivid memories.

I understand, I think, why archaeologists, anthropologists, get excited over one tiny object, one slender shard. Look at the history entwined around a common, everyday item.

We used to do a self-awareness activity when training peer tutors. What three things would you include on a personal crest, we’d ask? Secretly, I always had trouble identifying symbols for my own imaginary shield.

But now, hey–I think it’s easy. Let’s use the humble Egg McMuffin. Maybe I’ll show it shooting out tenacious suckers that reach every facet of our lives, ensuring that we’re never unconnected to our past, to the people, however far-flung, whom we hold dear.

Yep: let’s put that on my family crest: breakfast sandwich rampant.

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Just a couple of guys at the farmers’ market

Corn and tomaters

Sometimes she has to work on a Saturday morning, and then she asks her husband and son if they’d mind going for her.

“It’s important to shop locally,” she’ll say. “We want to support our local farmers.”

They nod seriously and look over her shoulder at the list (kale, she wants; rhubarb; new potatoes–fingerlings, too, if possible; onions, salad greens, carrots, tomatoes…). They look at each other as she writes earnestly, the man and his tall son. They roll their eyes.

She hands them the list, kisses them both, grabs her travel mug, and rushes off to the car, off to whatever Saturday event demands her presence, and they toast up some English muffins, spread them with jam, crunch them down, and then head to the Farmers’ Market.

It’s held at the fairgrounds; tables and tents stretch out for almost a quarter mile. In the big barns, vendors who need refrigeration set up their wares.

Here’s what happens when she goes: they head out onto the green, briskly passing the gleaming white trailer that sells coffee and doughnuts.

She laughs when she sees the line of people at the trailer.

“Yeah, RIGHT,” she’ll say. “THAT’S what we come to a farmers’ market for–doughnuts.” And she leads them into the thick of the vegetable stands.

She’ll have her list, but first, of course, she has to stop at each stand, look at their goods, check out their prices. She makes her way down one end and up the other, stopping to talk with women from her club, with neighbors, with people from work, with the vendors themselves; talking recipes, debating advantages of grilling over steaming, planning for what’s going to be ripe and on the stands next week. Only when the entire circuit is complete does she buy, getting potatoes at one stand, an eggplant at another, going all the way to the end to a guy selling from a wobbly card table whose blueberries looked just a little plumper than the rest.

They trail after her. Every once in a while, they catch a whiff of doughnuts crisping up merrily in a bath of boiling grease.

Table by tent, she picks her produce, hands the bags to them to carry, and they work their way back to the car.

“Want to go in the buildings?” they ask her.

They always ask.

“Nah,” she always says. “Nothing in there we need.”

She smiles as they drive home, thinking of the salads she can throw together. “Won’t those summer squash taste good right off the grill?” she asks.

“Oh, yeah,” they say. “Can’t wait.”

But.

On the days she can’t go, the days they shop for her, they park the car and bound out, homing in on the doughnut trailer. The man gets a cup of hot tea; his son gets a hot chocolate; they each get three doughnuts in a paper lunch sack.

By the time they get to a nearby picnic table, the sacks are greasily translucent, and they pry the plastic tops off their drinks, releasing steam. They take the doughnuts out and stack them on the flattened sacks. They munch and sip as the crowd flows around them.

“Are those people from around here?” the son asks his father every time, meaning the people who run the doughnut trailer. And every time, the father answers, “Yes. Yes, they are.”

They raise their styrofoam cups to each other somberly. “It’s good,” they assure each other, “to shop local.”

Then they stop at the first big table they come to, one that has just about every kind of vegetable. The man hands the woman working the stand the list. She looks at it pityingly.

“His wife’s at work,” she whispers to her partner, and they pack up the freshest and best stuff for the poor woman who has to send these men to do her shopping.

The man writes a check, and they head toward the barns.

On the way, some of the vendors offer a taste, hoping to drum up business. One man extends perfect little grape tomatoes.

“Eat ’em like candy,” he says. “Sweet as sugar.”

The man takes one, but the son declines.

“Uh, no, thank you,” he says politely. “I’m more of a carnivore.”

In the shadowy barns, there are meat vendors behind huge old glass-fronted freezers and refrigerated cases. Sometimes the vendors bring portable cookers and sauté chunks of meat, spearing them on toothpicks—cubes of pork in a homemade barbecue sauce, also for sale at the booth; once, nibbles of ostrich meat. Marinated chicken, tender smoked turkey; sometimes, but rarely, little bites of beef.

They work their way through the dim interior, politely accepting samples. The guy who runs a dairy stand usually brings green cheese—moon cheese, he calls it, but today’s tech-savvy, highly educated children don’t get that—and sets out a plate of samples. They always take some. It’s gritty, a little salty, oddly pleasing. They linger at the fudge table, where they can choose from samples: peanut butter cup; salted penuche; rocky road; classic chocolate.

There are jewelry tables, there are tables with NASCAR paraphernalia; there are people selling lovely hand-knit and crocheted baby clothes. At the very end, by the double doors, there is a baked goods booth.

The young man gets a brownie, oozing gooey fudge frosting, as big as the paper dessert plate it comes on. His father gets a strawberry hand pie, crusted with sugar. The baker lady hands them each a half-inch stack of paper napkins; they eat the treats in the car, licking their fingers and wiping their hands and mouths happily.

Then, their duties done, they carry their produce home.

When she gets home from work, she inspects the carrots, the squash, the leafy greens, the sweet corn, the tiny new potatoes. Bunched together on the little kitchen table, they make a colorful array, worthy of a centerfold in Good Housekeeping.

“Oh, you did great,” she tells them warmly; they duck their heads modestly and allow as how they were happy to go to the market for her.

“It’s really kind of wonderful, isn’t it?” she muses. “We get all this, and we’re supporting local farmers.”

They bob their heads in enthusiastic agreement.

“You’re right,” they say. “You really are. It’s great to shop local.”

The Carrying of Cookbooks

Streusel topped muffins

This cool and foggy May Sunday morning, I’m baking streusel topped muffins to warm us up. The recipe (a coffee cake recipe; I prefer to use a good coffee cake recipe to make my muffins) is from what we call ‘the new cookbook’–a version of the red-checkered Better Homes and Gardens recipe book. My sister-in-law Mary gave me my first copy when I first got married way back in the early eighties; that copy lasted until about 1994, when my husband and sons got me the latest edition for Christmas. Jim, who was four then and very literal, dubbed it the new cookbook because of its recency, not its title. Twenty years later, when we’re discussing where to find a recipe, we might say, “That one’s in the new cookbook,” and the seeker will know to go grab that twenty-year-old book.

I read a fable once about a man who drowned because he refused to let go of a trunk filled with his prized possessions. And I’m on board with that; our things should not own us. Every so often, I go into purge mode and really think: do I need this? Does this add anything to my life? Would anyone be at a loss if I got rid of this? Have I used this within the past year?

And so blouses that I like but will probably never wear again, books that were mind-opening when I was 32, jewelry with broken clasps, scented candles, tape players,–they all land in a box for the thrift store. I have cookbooks on my shelf, however, that I’d be hard-pressed to let out of my grasp, even as the waters swirled around my ankles.

My Betty Crocker cookbook holds together with packing tape; it has a pie chart photo on the front featuring, among other culinary treats, a fondue pot full of pale orange stuff. My brother Sean and I bought that book for my mother in the very early seventies; we bought it with money saved from baby-sitting and paper routes, and when Mom opened it, she blurted, “No! You spent TOO MUCH!”
We were so proud; that was Mom-speak for, “What an incredible thing!” The Betty Crocker Cookbook was Mom’s cooking bible, and her old version came out just past World War II. We knew we had given her a gift she would cherish and use, and when it came to me after her death, the cover was already wobbling apart. I used it enough to seal the separation and the packing tape came out.
I make the recipe for Hungarian Goulash in this volume; it’s a recipe I met under the name ‘Beef Paprika’, and that’s what we still call it. A dear friend, Pam Hall, fixed it for a dinner party when we were running with the same crazy post-college crowd, and my companion then and I fell in love with it. It was a recipe that Pam’s mom, a truly gifted cook, was testing for the Betty Crocker kitchens. It’s re-named Hungarian goulash, in Mom’s cookbook.
Pam is gone now, too, and I never follow that recipe without thinking of her openness and generosity; nor do I ever use the book without memories of meals at my Mom’s. (And…I love the picture of Betty Crocker on the back of the book; she had been revamped for the Women’s Liberation movement of that day, and sports a smooth page boy haircut and an ascot type collar. She looks as if she could be bringing home the bacon before cooking it up in pan…)

From that same era, I have a slim paperback volume, Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two Cookbook. That was a wedding shower gift from another dear friend, Sharon, a high school friend who stayed close during college. We lost the reins of friendship after that, but I still think of her fondly whenever I gently open this aging book. One section talks to young couple-cooks about stretching a budget; I used those recipes a lot. I still make the ham and bean skillet fairly regularly, and there’s a concoction made from leftover ham, cheddar cheese, and Bisquick–Bisquick’s big in a lot of these 1970’s recipes—and sprinkled with sesame seeds that’s a nice side with a steaming bowl of soup.

Last month, there was a potluck at Mark’s work for a departing colleague; most people signed up to bring a dish, but Mark was tapped by his colleague Debbie to bring what we call ‘Lee Brothers.’ It’s a mac and cheese recipe from a book that my darlin’ niece Meg gave me–The Lee Brothers’ Southern Cookbook. There they are on the cover–Matt and Ted Lee, their waists about as big around as the circumference of my knee–and I turn the page to find recipes with no regard whatsoever for modern diets and cholesterol concern. The mac and cheese recipe is actually listed under vegetables, with the argument that school cafeterias always considered macaroni and cheese a vegetable side.
The dish calls for whole milk, lots of cheddar and Swiss cheese, butter…it is oozey and fattening and totally wonderful. (How do those Lee boys stay so thin? Do they EAT their own cookin’???) For the potluck, Mark mixed it up the night before and rolled it into the crockpot, letting it cook on low all morning at work. There were no leftovers to worry about when he brought the crock pot home. (This recipe, by the way, is easily available via a quick Web search; I needed it just post-move when cookbooks were still packed away, and opted for the easy route.)
I also favor the Lees’ recipe for Hoppin’ John at New Years’ time.

Meg, like the Lees, is now a South Carolinian, and she gave me, also, Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Lewis and Poliafito opened their first bake shop/cafe in Brooklyn, but they followed it, I believe, with one in Charleston; when I visited Meg, we visited that (no longer run by the founders, but still–quite, quite yummy.) This book yields the closest recipe I can find to Starbuck’s Reese’s cup cookies. I can’t find those cookies in any of the Starbucks in this area of Ohio; I insist on braking for Barnes and Noble stores in New York and PA–not a hard sell with my boys–on the off chance of finding my favorite cookie in their attached cafe’s—and usually my luck holds. Meanwhile, I strive to re-create those cookies in my kitchen; Baked offers a pretty darned good approximation in its peanut butter cookie recipe.

Mark gave me a chicken cookbook, the Reader’s Digest Great Chicken Dishes, when we lived on Orchard Street; its chicken corn chowder recipe was a great thing to cook when in the law school years, with hungry young law students visiting for meals. (Mark’s young classmate, Todd, used to pass him notes in the midst of challenging class sessions. “I’m hungry; I need soup,” the note might say, or, “I like chicken corn chowder.”)

I have a stack of those little fund-raiser compilation books with the plastic spiral bindings; they yield the best recipes for things like no-bake cookies, Buckeye-style Rice Krispy bars (corn syrup and peanut butter instead of marshmallow; a topping of melted chocolate chips; these don’t last long on my counter), and never-fail pie crust. I go to Julia Child for roast chicken (and one of these years, she’s going to show me how to make French bread). My Joy of Cooking helps with everything from how long to cook a roast of beef to a reliable recipe for raspberry bars. And Alice Waters’ Art of Simple Cooking is my go-to for risotto; my homemade broth is forever enriched by her technique of roasting the bones and veggies before immersing them in a deep, long simmer.

I also have notebooks full of recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines or printed from the Internet; my son Jim helps me organize these by numbering pages and creating tables of contents. This is where Mark’s parents’ recipe for “Dom’s Mom’s Meatballs” resides and my sister-in-law Mary Ann’s directions for Buffalo Wing Dip, along with a classic cheesecake recipe that can’t be beaten and Louise Pelletter’s directions for a long-simmering red sauce.

I suppose I could add my favorite recipes from each of the cookbooks I’ve mentioned; type them out, save them to a thumb drive, print out a copy and paste them in a notebook. That would be efficient, maybe.

But I am not so interested in efficiency in this process.

Everyone once in a while my Jim, who is a lover and a maestro of lists, will sit down with a cookbook and start listing recipes we should try. So we will experiment, say, with parmesan crusted chicken–very, very delicious-or pepperoni bites, a classic seventies appetizer treat. Our repertoire, getting just a little bit stale, expands.

And my cookbooks give me the sense of continuity, of gifts, not just of the physical book, but of the tastes of the giver, and their care for my well-being. The cookbooks I’ve gifted to myself give me the sense of the passing on of important techniques and processes–a true home-making tradition not limited to an age or a gender, but an essential part of any life. I like to open and savor them; I like to read the intro’s and anecdotes.

I have worked with young people immersed in strong passed-down traditions; I have worked with young people whose lives don’t have the shape and the girding this kind of passing-down provides. I feel for that second group, having been lucky enough to have both, the passing down of lore from family and friends, and the acquiring of new traditions along the way. But I know that, with caring friends and personal curiosity, good stuff can be shared, and traditions can be begun.

That’s why my cookbooks travel with me. I’d let go of their trunk if I had to choose between them and the deluge.

But it wouldn’t be easy.

No Guilt Sunday

Sunday morning, 10:22, and I am having my first outdoor table time of the season.  I’m at our little, round, newly wiped down, outdoor table perched on a similarly prepared metal mesh chair.  Babe the Stone Pig sits stoically behind me, blue baseball hat fastener pulled jauntily over her snout.  Greta the Live Dog stands tensely, loosely chained, to my left, sniffing the air, listening to the birds, gauging whether this outdoor stuff is to her prissy liking.

It is Sunday morning, and I haven’t–sigh–gone to church.  And,–despite a tightly wimpled voice rooted deep in my psyche, a voice that says, “He gave up his LIFE for you, and you can’t give up an HOUR on Sunday morning?”, — I am feeling, truly, no guilt.

Please don’t misunderstand–this is not a diatribe against organized religion.  I really like my organized church, and the organized book club that meets on Sunday mornings before organized services.  I like reading things of spiritual nature in company and wrestling with our individual understandings in a group.  I like the service that follows, and the fellowship of kind and caring congregants.  I appreciate our pastor’s sermons; they are thoughtful and depth-filled, and I take notes on my bulletin and come home and look things up on the internet, or request books he’s mentioned at our library.

My church both gives me perspective and broadens my perspective.

But. Some Sundays…

Mark and I have overlapping weekends. His is Saturday and Sunday.  Mine is Sunday and Monday.  The only non-work morning we have as a family is this one, this Sunday one, and it’s usually fine that I run off to join the book group, Mark meets me for services, and Jim stays home to ask, “How was it?” when we arrive back just before noon so we can lunch together.

This late winter/early spring, however, has been busy.  Busy is good in many ways–busy means involved and somehow vital to someone or -ones, something or -things.

Sometimes, though, I picture little clumps of leisure time rolling tantalizingly on life’s Astroturf.  There I am, further down on the field, fussily doing all my oh-so-essential little things, and thinking of those lovely clumps of time I’ll gather up soon.

Then a clanking roar swells up and an enormous, battered, iron and copper contraption lumbers speedily onto the playing field.  It has a jointed snout and obvious power, and it rushes over to the leisure time clumps and it sucks those babies up, wheels around in its ungainly efficiency, and swiftly disappears.

The time-sucker leaves me whining and bemoaning and sadly in need of a Sunday morning at home.  That brings me to this little table, a soft spring breeze, and a well-fed family.

This morning we did what passes in late, late middle age, for sleeping in–we stayed in bed till after seven, till our helpful bladders reminded us we’re a long, long way from 30–or even 40–and till an inquisitive little dog snout an inch from my face reminded me that–HELLO! — my bladder might not be the only consideration here.  And we got up and wandered drowsily downstairs.

I leashed the dog and we trotted out into the front yard, where the annoyed Deer Bunch huffed, showing us the white sides of their tails as they left our sweet grass and went to explore the neighbor’s, across the street.  The daffodils swayed cheerily, there was a swell of excited birdsong, and the Sunday papers waited, full of promise and crosswords, on the front walk. A big fat bee bumbled harmlessly around me, and a voice in my mind spoke to me sweetly.

“You have,” it reminded me, “all the ingredients for Heath bar coffee cake.”

That voice was louder and much more convincing than the wimpled one. And so this Sunday morning found me–after saying my solitary prayers in the morning stillness–doing the Sunday crossword across the table from my husband, who snorted his way through the op-ed section. His muttered commentary was an accompaniment to the creaking of my fuzzy brain into some kind of life as I searched for a word that floated, like a message in one of those eight-ball prophecy toys, just the other side of awareness.

And I caught up on four weeks’ worth of uncut coupons, and I got on the internet and printed out the Heath Bar Toffee Coffee Cake recipe.

Jim came downstairs around nine o’clock; by then, the coffee cake was almost ready to emerge from the oven.  I heated one of my old cast iron skillets, drizzled in it a little olive oil, and sautéed the week’s remaining ham in the sizzle.  When that was crisp and fragrant, I poured in six eggs, nicely beaten, and, as that scrambled, pulled the coffee cake from the oven.  Its toffee bar topping oozed in a golden brown crust; I grated Asiago onto the scramble and threw some grated cheddar, left over from Thursday’s fajitas, on top of that.

We poured blueberry pomegranate juice into our mismatched glasses, and we tenderly leveraged that oozey chocolate mess onto our plates, sidled cheesy eggs up next to that, and sat down to a Sunday brunch.  And we talked and planned and felt the tight winding of our weekly clocks ease a little.

This morning I beat the time sucker to one of those nice little clumps of leisure time, and I relaxed and listened to my boyos talk.  I wandered through the neighborhood with our neurotic little dog, and I watched the field of daffodils at the old folks’ home on the corner nodding expansively to one another. And I brought my I-Pad out to this little table, and I lost all track of time.

I will emerge from this lovely tunnel; I will do the dishes, make the bed, and put on my outdoor face so we can head to a support group gathering in Columbus this afternoon .  Greased, our wheels will gather speed, and we will ride them into a nicely busy week.

Most Sundays, my time at church undergirds my being and helps me reflect and prepare.  Every once in a while, though–and today was one of those days–a morning at home, a breakfast leisurely prepared and shared with a couple of Zanghi boys, time to walk, and time to appreciate, is a necessary balm.

******** PS–You can find the Heath Bar Toffee Coffee Cake recipe at Food.com.