Monday, April 29, 2013

Insatiable Reader :: Bread & Wine

{I used to blog my book reviews over at my book blog, The Insatiable Reader. But I've decided to streamline the blogging and include book reviews here at Stories and Toast. I'll leave my old stomping grounds on the web in case you want to use my previous book reviews, but will be posting new book I read here. I hope you're game for some good book-talk!}

What a perfect book for my first Stories and Toast review. This writing is exactly the kind of writing I love. It resonates and connects. It's real and juicy and you can almost taste the flavors and feel the love around Shauna's table. She's one of those writers (like Adrianna Trigiani, Kelle Hampton, and Anne Lamott) that makes you feel deeply and be willing to bet just about anything that you'd be best friends with her if only you could meet her in person. {which, inevitably, makes you feel a little bit like a creep.}

When I read Molly Wizenberg's memoir A Homemade Life I knew that was the type of book I would want to write if I wrote a book. The kind of book to be proud of. This is that kind of book.

Shauna talks about celebrating life around the table. It's about the sacredness of filling the people you love - their bellies and their spirits. She says that food is not only physical but spiritual as well - as Jesus demonstrated when he gathered his disciples at the last supper.

This book will surely have you rattling pots and pans in the kitchen - I've made three of the recipes so far and they're all delicious. All I have to say is: Annette's Enchiladas, page 144. Do it. And you're going to want to start a Cooking Club. I promise. It's got my wheels turnin'.

Shauna can write no wrong in my book. I've sung her praises before:
My review of Cold Tangerines is here.
My review of Bittersweet is here.

{Abby. I want you to know that I think of you every time I settle in to read Shauna. I am endlessly grateful that you introduced me to her writing. And feel just a little honored that you thought of me when you read her.}

And, please share with me what you are reading or what you did read or what you will read!
I'm a sucker for book-talk.

Sunday, April 28, 2013



It's my taste of home. It's my go-to food when there's upheaval or joy or tiredness or just nothing to eat that's quick enough. It satisfies.

My mom eats it every morning for breakfast - she finds the most fabulous loaves of bread for her morning ritual. English muffin loaf, cinnamon raisin swirl, walnut cranberry streusel, crunchy sourdough, date-studded.

Butter while still warm.
Make space.
Break the fast.

It's what she would serve when I was sick - most moms do. Toast a slice of white Wonder bread, lightly butter and drizzle honey on top. That was the sick-girl meal. And oh, it tasted so good after 24 hours of not eating. I was sure heaven would have white toast with butter and honey.

Most mornings I grab the Ezekiel bread - or Trader Joe's version of sprouted grain bread - and toast it. I love the dense, chewiness of it. It stands up to whatever I may put on top.
Lately I've been having Udi's gluten free bread. Not because I'm gluten free but because having less gluten makes me feel lighter.

I really cannot decide if toast is just a vehicle to get the toppings in my mouth or if the toppings are an excuse to have a piece of bread. {I try to stay away from bread for the rest of the day...I said "try," not "succeed at."}

I start with butter.
Butter: salted. Always. And full-on, 100% butter. None of this olive oil mixture, hydrogenated-weird, canola-substitute, can't believe it's not pond scum junk. And please, please, please don't ever try to pull margarine over on this girl.
Whatever else goes on the toast, there's salted butter at the base of it all.

Butter and local blackberry honey drizzled golden on top.
Avocado sliced and placed - salt, red pepper flakes, all sitting on top of a cloud of vegenaise {Gwyneth taught me that one.}
Almond butter with sliced bananas and a sprinkle of flax meal.
Simple butter with glittering cinnamon sugar.
Good, seedy fruit preserves - Raspberry, Blackberry, Cherry, Blueberry, glistening on top.
Peanut Butter & Co.'s Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter with a scattering of homemade granola.
Strawberry preserves with a fried egg perched glossily over it. The mixture of salt and sweet is perfection. Peanut butter and jelly, open-faced, on toast. Divine.
One word: Nutella.
Or three words: Nutella and strawberries.
I stock up on jars of tart lingonberry preserves on every visit I make to IKEA. Lingonberry-topped whole wheat toast is a gorgeous way to start the day.
On my {much too} brief stay in Amsterdam last fall I came across a revelation: sprinkles for toast. These are delicate little chocolate sprinkles and milk or dark chocolate shavings to top toast with. Holy windmills...was that fantastic.

Or. If you're a dipper {I am, most assuredly, a dipper} you dunk your toast into hot chocolate - just plain, buttery toast. Or scoop up cream of wheat with it. Or sop up your runny egg yolk. Toast adores to be dipped.

One form of toast we love in my house is the little round center that pops out to make room for the egg when we make an Ox Eye. {some call them egg in a hole, egg in a basket, toad in the hole...}Whatever you call it, you know that I'm talking about. That little circle of bread is a prime candidate for toasting. And toast it we do. Some mornings the kids want the magical little toast round more than the actual Ox Eye.

Toast is important to me. I didn't know it until one night, when the kids were very young, I had had a rough day. Ira came home, took one look at my face and sent me to the bathtub. Once the water was sufficiently scalding - I do like a hot bath - and I was submerged as much as my lame little bathtub will allow, he popped his head in and asked if I'd like a cup of tea and "anything else?" I nodded yes, and peeped out pathetically, "Toast. With butter and jelly...Please." He shut the door and I waited.
He brought the tea - perfect, Sleepytime. The toast? He could see all over my face. It wasn't right.
The poor slice of bread had been mauled with too-cold butter when it had clearly sat too long outside of the toaster. The butter sat in sad chunks on the surface of the bread - interlaced with crumbs from the aforementioned mutilated bread - and grape (grape?!) jelly congealed with the butter. No. This toast I will not eat.
"What?" he asked. Eyeing his toast-ish creation.
"Um. You used cold butter...and you didn't make sure the bread was still warm. The butter has to...melt. It has to melt in..." I felt silly saying it. And, bless my dear husband, he laughed when it came out of my mouth and promptly turned around and took the offensive stuff with him.
"And...never put grape jelly on my toast!" I called after him.
He came back bearing perfect toast with melted butter and seedy raspberry jam.
It's important that a husband knows how to make good toast.

Toast for me is comfort and home and childhood and routine. Toast is also endlessly versatile and welcomed at almost any time of the day.

How do you take your toast? I may find a new variation that becomes a favorite.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


I finished something hard last week.
It was long and sometimes ugly but other times it felt light and beautiful.
{those times of light and beautiful were few, but they carried me through.}
I have a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing.
And earning that degree has been a feat of sheer will over these past few years.
But I have something more. I carry something glowing and shiny inside of myself when I think about it.
The only way to describe it is to tell what happened after I walked to my car that last day of class. 
I felt it building about halfway through class as classmates beautifully summarized their time in nursing school. Listening to the hard stories, the difficulties they had overcome. The lump in my throat...the inevitable tears. The impending breakdown. The Ugly Cry.
I couldn't get to my car fast enough. The tears stung and I distinctly heard myself say to no one but me,
 "I did it. I finished something. I finished it."
I sniffled and collected myself and broke down crying all over again the rest of that night. 
I danced in the kitchen while making dinner. 
Evie and I sat on the couch hands entwined, letting tears drift down our cheeks in joy. 
I hugged my husband and told him what a super hero he's been. 
I collected handmade cards with messages of:
"mom, you R a rocstar!!!" 
"I luv you, mom! Now you R a NERS!!" 
{kindergarten and first graders make the best congratulatory notes, hands down.}

It's been a season of sacrifice.
Of wondering, WHY did I think this was okay?
Of trusting that God knew exactly the answer to that question.
Of rightfully earning my Starbucks Gold Card.
Of cramming my head full of way too much information about bodily fluids.
Of hilarious study sessions which somehow always ended up in someone making up a rap about asthma medications or hernia repair surgery.
Of falling deeply in love with my new profession.
Of finding myself at the end: a finisher.

{I am so happy to be starting this next part of my life. 
This is where I will be blogging from here on out. 
Talking about life and books and cooking and children and gardens and travels and joy and God and nursing
Because now I can.}