Just a cup o’ Joe

I love a great cup of coffee. There’s just something about that rich, creamy goodness that soothes my soul. I have lots of friends and relatives that are “tea toters” — which I just discovered during this post — does not mean a tea lover!! I will have to find another name to label my friends with, as the phrase really has nothing to do with tea! It is actually spelled “teetotaler” which really means they abstain from alcoholic drinks — which isn’t really my friends…well some of them…oh my — where was I? See — ya’ll need to drink coffee!

Anyway… yes. Ahem. The soothing calm of a good cup of java. Just a cup o’ Joe, as they say. Why coffee? Well, there is a lot of chit chat about coffee and the “need” for it in the morning. That the caffeine in coffee is somehow required to wake us up. To fuel us in our daily tasks. Now, I do enjoy it with my breakfast, but I don’t often get the chance to linger over it. (Much as I would love to, but I am an on-the-go coffee girl). That’s what thermal mugs are for. I like mine with cream or milk — but have been skipping the sugar for years. I think I had my first taste of coffee during my last year of high school — pulling all nighters for exams and projects, and figuring I “needed” it to stay awake. More than likely not true, but I learned to like the taste from then on out. Pumpkin spice latte season? Don’t even get me started! Most people agree, they love the smell of roasting coffee beans…even if they don’t drink it. Hmmmn…yup, coffee is it.

We Canadians love our coffee! (Photo Credit Adi C.)

We Canadians especially love our coffee. According to the Coffee Business Intelligence Site (*giggle* who knew there was such a thing?!) we average about 2 and a half cups a day, and are in the top ten for consumption per capita. In 2014, Tim Horton’s sold 2 billion cups of coffee per day. That number, I am sure, has sky rocketed since roll up the rim started giving away its millions. If you are reading the blog from a place other than Canada… let’s just say Timmies is a Canuck thing and you have to live here to understand. But again, I digress.

the Canadian coffee consumption 2019

I recently watched a national geographic clip about coffee. The photographer traveled to interview farmers who have come back to their family farms to carry on the tradition of coffee farming. It was interesting — coffee is truly an artisan craft. There is still very little automation in the process… the ripe, red berries are always handpicked, and the drying and roasting is slow and time consuming.

Coffee drinking is generally associated with a slow process as well. A lingering. We meet “over coffee”. Coffee is about the social and about relaxing and enjoying one another’s company. We laugh. We hug a mug to feel it’s warmth radiate through us on a cool, crisp morning. It does awaken our senses and help us appreciate the world around us. There is no etiquette to coffee drinking. No pinkies up, no china saucers, no formal attire. It’s pajamas and wool socks with our frothy goodness-es.

Even if you think of coffee drinkers around the world, it reverberates the relational — espressos in Italy with lovers chatting at bistros, Turkish men debating over strong brews, African or Colombian farmers sampling wares and fine tuning their trade with thick skinned, weathered handshakes and smiles. Moms at Starbucks taking a break to reconnect with girlfriends. Business partners making big plans over coffee breaks (with donuts!) Sorry tea drinkers — coffee brings us together. It gets real with coffee.

My friends, have you “had coffee” lately? I don’t really mean the drink, of course, I mean have you taken the time to be with someone? To nurture a friendship? To chat? To linger and catch up? Or taken the time to wake up your senses to the world around you? To breathe in the aroma of God’s world and let Him wrap you in the warmth of His love? I’m pretty sure Jesus is a coffee drinker…the Bible does say “He brews” (groan). I bet he can make those cute little frothy milk pictures on the tops of lattes too… just to make us smile.

I hope you get the chance to sit and sip awhile today. To savour the warmth and drink in the people of your little world. To enjoy the richness of your relationships and the spice of life with the people who mean much to you. As for me, I smell a campfire brewing in our backyard as I type, so maybe I need to bring a few mugs out. Bottoms up, my beloveds!

Adventures in Sourdough

“Mom killed “Herman”! ” “I did not… I saved most of him”… “Quick! Grab a towel!”

Laugh if you will, but this is how weird our house is getting now that we have introduced a new “life” into our home. “Herman” is our sourdough starter. Hush. It’s not odd… lots of people have names for their sourdough starter. I looked it up. And, for the record, I didn’t kill him off when the measuring cup malfunctioned and “Herman” became a melting, stinky puddle running down the side of the dishwasher… some of him was already saved in the container! “Herman” lives on!!

Okay, okay, let’s back up a little bit. Goal for 2019… live a bit greener and a bit more simply. Subsequently, I see a post from a friend that she has some sourdough starter to share… yes please… let’s try something new! Visions of the simple homemaker baking bread, the sweet smell of yeasty goodness filling the air with aromas of days gone by. Simpler times when everyone got along and borrowed cups of sugar. And so a tiny jar came home to me — filled with half a cup of sourdough starter: “Herman” had arrived.

People have been making bread for years. All kinds of bread. I read somewhere that sourdough starters present today could be upwards of 300 years old. History tells us that some form of bread has been a staple in almost every culture. However, unlike the great pioneer woman, I bought mine in the grocery store, already baked, packaged, and sliced. Therefore, I was excited to try out homemade. Many health experts say sourdough bread is a healthier option for people who are trying to reduce their gluten intake. Compared to store bought white bread, it also has a low glycemic index and can keep your sugar levels down. How hard could it be? I was in –but– I had no idea how to feed, nurture or care for this new being. So, I had to look up the instructions, again.

Along the way I have learned a lot! Most breads contain a yeast. Sourdough bread is made when the dough is allowed to ferment in a “culture” or starter. The mixture of a naturally occurring yeast (referred to as a “wild” ferment) and Lactobacillus (a bacterial culture) that produces lactic acid. This lactic acid produces the “sour” taste of traditional sourdough. The long story is: you’ve got to feed the starter in order for the culture to thrive. This is usually done by adding flour and water, which the starter then breaks down into sugars etc, etc… basically a living science experiment all happening on my kitchen counter.

At first, I was adding too much flour, and my starter became very thick, almost glue like. The hubby complained about having to wash those jars… gooey glop for sure! Then I added less flour — which makes the starter a bit more sour tasting. Parenting yeast and bacterial cultures is a delicate balance. And heaven forbid you spill… years of history running down into clean forks! Oh! The Tragedy!

All these adventures to say this: we have enjoyed trying all kinds of sourdough starter recipes! We’ve decided we don’t like the pancakes. The bread is good… although I am still learning to get a good rise. I think our house is too chilly. Pizza dough has become a favourite, and we have enjoyed the family bonding experience of making our own pizzas. Cinnamon buns and pretzels were big hits and baked donuts are on the agenda! I will post all the recipes on my Pinterest boards for you to check out!!

Cinnamon Buns were so yummy!!

I may not have become the pioneer woman of the gold rush, but “Herman” has forced me to slow down a little, to plan my rising times, and try new recipes for using up leftover starter. There is nothing like getting your hands all floured up and kneading dough. The whole family now has to participate in pizza night. I think the only one who is not so sure of “Herman” is the dishwasher. Sorry, darling. Be that as it may, it now comes as no surprise to me that our cultures have put such a significance on bread. It has deep symbolism in the Bible, too, many I am sure you are familiar with: hospitality, the bread of life, remembrance of Christ’s body broken for us at the last supper. Thanksgivings for our daily bread and the forgiveness of sins that can grow and multiply like the yeast and levain in a sourdough starter culture.

It’s a good reminder, isn’t it? How something so simple, so traditional, can contain such meaning. We forget to be thankful for our basic needs. We forget to take advantage of time. To be patient and wait for things to rise and flourish. We forget to appreciate the traditions of hard work, in this quick paced society. We forget that unless we are fed in proper proportions we become sour and fermented. Do we bless others through sharing our wealth and our hospitality? For now, “Herman” will continue to be fed and thrive on our counter… a reminder of so many more complex things!

Aloe Vera

I’ve been reflecting, lately, on how complex our world is, and yet, how it all seamlessly works together to provide us with all that we need:

  • Our middle school son has been learning about parts of a cell and all the intricate workings of the tiniest of living things. I love that! Besides, it’s just fun to say “rough endoplasmic reticulum” and know what it means.
  • We have been surviving the snowmaggedon of 2019 here, and many are waiting for spring to arrive — and it will — eventually. The snow will melt and nourish the land just in time for spring flowers to peep up out of the ground. But for now, we continue to shovel out.
  • We’ve marked the year anniversary of my beloved mother-in-law’s final battle with Alzheimer’s, and reflected on how painful it was to watch this awful disease rob her of so many things. Yet the beauty of her life was cared for so diligently by her beloved husband and family.

Which brings me to my Aloe Vera muse. In case you don’t know, aloe vera is the term given to a variety of succulent plants know for it’s “healing” or “soothing” properties. The aloe vera gel is harvested and used in countless beauty and hair products. It’s been grown by many a gardener for it’s attractive, easy growing nature and it’s medicinal properties. A few years ago, I received a huge pot of aloe. It had been left untouched for some time and had propagated to about 40 “pups” or off shoots — baby plants, if you will. I have shared or used most of those babies and now have a few lone survivors left on my windowsill. Recently, I bought an aloe stem (stalk?) with my groceries! It didn’t cost too much, and held all the promise of good things. Only issue… what to do with the crazy thing?!

You tube to the rescue again! Apparently, you harvest the gel inside by trimming away the sharp, spiky edges, filleting the green off, and scooping up all the yummy aloe vera gel from the inside! I wish I was better at videos, because it would have been much more entertaining for you to watch the process as opposed to my still photos! The plant smelled a little funny, it tastes bitter direct from the plant, and the gel is like trying to herd a slippery pile of snot. We laughed. All in all, we harvested a good sized jar of the soothing aloe gel — currently stored in my refrigerator.

Further research says I can use it on my skin, hair and nails. We’ve been trying some natural bar shampoo that is a little drying, so hair help might be on the agenda. I can mix it in with my smoothies for digestion help (or a good cleanse (apparently) if one adds too much!) I use it all the time for minor burns and skin irritations. It works wonders on sunburn (not that we are having any of that in the middle of winter!) but supposedly it works well on chapped lips, so this is a current seasonal option! I figure if it worked for Cleopatra’s beauty regime, it will certainly help with ours!

Learning more about this miracle plant has shown me, that yet again, the Creator of this world takes good care of us! Time and time again the words of Psalm 147:3 ring true: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (ESV) Like the soothing gel of the aloe vera plant, God is the balm that calms our hurts, heals our pain, and binds our wounds. Sometimes it is messy. We get lost in the snotty goo of our imperfections, but His grace covers us and provides that added layer of protection on our parched, chapped skin.

His nourishing word cleanses us from the inside. Our bible study group last week reminded me that meditation on God’s word gives us the tools we need to navigate through our daily routines. Like the aloe, a little nourishment can keep us “clean” and boost our immunity.

So, if you are like us, and dreaming of more tropical weather and sunburn season… remember the little Aloe Vera plant and all it’s benefits. Let it be a green reminder to you of how God is the balm that cleanses and purifies. The One who heals and calms our hurts. Be blessed!