623: Amish Friendship Bread


Don’t do it. It’s a trap.

Over the course of my life, I have gotten from several acquaintances a container of Amish Friendship Bread starter. For those of you who have not been so blessed, it is a sourdough (sweetened) fermented dough, used as a leavening agent in a future bread product – in this case, a loaf of Amish Friendship Bread. Whether this has anything to do with the Amish, I haven’t a clue, but it does impose on your friends, hence the Friendship part of the name. See, when you get this container of starter, you have to stir it daily, and feed it in about a week, and stir it daily for another week until it is ready to bake; at which point you feed it again, divide it into three new containers, leaving you with enough starter to bake one recipe loaf of the bread, and one starter for the next loaf (plus three), in another two weeks – after the stir and feed routine. You are supposed to give the three starter containers to three of your friends, who are then obligated to do the same, like a kitchen coffee klatch-style pyramid scheme. I can foresee the stuff taking over the world.


There is a Facebook post that I have seen several times, and it goes something like this: If you send me a messenger post that tells me to copy and paste, and repost to 10 of my friends (TEN!!!! Like, who has ten friends?): know this, dear post sharer: my inbox is where your messages come to die. I do not repost. I do not share.

I have learned similar lessons about the Amish Friendship Bread. I accept the container of starter, of course – who wants to be labeled a non-friend for refusing? I stir and feed it for the requisite two weeks, and when it is ready for dividing, sharing, and baking, I simply kill all of it by mixing up and baking four loaves of bread at once. Problem solved. No friends involved. I will take the finished loaves of bread to work to share with friends as it does make a tasty coffee cake and such is usually received with delighted gratitude and disappears with alacrity whenever anyone is moved to donate.

Just in case you are intrigued, poor hapless soul who has no IDEA what you are starting: here is the recipe.

To make the starter, in a glass or plastic jar (with a lid) or a gallon zipper plastic bag, mix one cup of milk (any fat level), one cup of sugar and one cup of plain flour. Do not refrigerate it. Stir it (mash the bag) daily for five days. You should see it begin to ferment (bubble) during this process. On day five, feed your starter with one cup each again of milk, sugar, and flour. Stir or mash well.

Day 6-10, stir/mash once daily. On day ten, you are ready to bake your one loaf and abuse/addict your friends. Feed the starter again (1 cup each milk, sugar and flour). By now, you may have to move up up a mixing bowl. Put three cups of the starter into three new containers (1 cup each), and give one container to three of your friends that you don’t care for overly much. They will each think of you repeatedly over the next two weeks, believe me.

You will also have a cup of starter for yourself, to return to your original, cleaned container to start your own feed and stir routine for the next two weeks, on your way to your next loaf (and next three friends, because the first three will delicately avoid you when they see you coming). That will leave you with one measure of starter with which to mix up your long-awaited loaf of Amish Friendship Bread.

To that last measure of starter, add the following:

1 cup oil (vegetable-based, your choice), 1 cup sugar, 3 large eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 2 cups flour, 5 oz box of instant pudding (any flavor you like), 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Optional: chopped nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, applesauce, craisins, etc. It’s a pretty loose recipe. Mix well.

Grease two loaf pans, and dust them with a sugar/cinnamon mix. It should take a teaspoon of cinnamon to a 1/2 cup of sugar to dust both greased loaf pans. Fill each pan with half of your batter, and bake 45-60 minutes at 325 until done – test with a toothpick in the center. Let them stand 10 minutes in their cooling pans before you loosen and tip them out to completely cool.

Or, forego the three new containers of friendship starter, and mix up four loaves’ worth of bread batter and bake the whole shebang yourself, and spare your friends. It is a pretty tasty coffee loaf, it freezes well, and it’s difficult to screw up the recipe, pretty much regardless of the extra ingredients you add. So, maybe you will want to share the starter for the first few batches – but nobody lasts longer than three months, trust me. Eventually the whole thing will sour on you – and I don’t mean the sourdough starter, either.

If someone ever tries to give you a container of starter – you are now forewarned and forearmed. You are welcome.


505: Saving Grace

download (2)

Some people are like gnats. Incredibly annoying, always up in your face. You wave them away, and two seconds later, they are back. They give new meaning to the word persistence.

Some people are like praying mantises. They spend all their time in the attitude of penitence, professing their gentle, reverent natures – until someone gets too close. Then they strike, and devour, and their true name becomes apparent: preying, not praying, mantis.

Some people are like cockroaches. They come out at night, and get into your stuff, spoiling everything they possibly can. When the light is shined on them, they scuttle off, ashamed of their actions, back into the dark that they prefer.

Some people are like flies. They congregate around death and decay, they revel in it, they worship it, they roll in it, and immerse their children in it. They care nothing about life – and are wholly consumed with seeking death.

Some people are like spiders. They weave great, complicated webs of lies and deception, setting traps for the unwary. And they delight in swooping down on those who get caught up in their deceit, gloating in their victory at another victim.

Some people are like ants. They keep to their own kind, and they keep their noses to their own grindstones, concerned only with whatever is important to them. They know nothing but work, until something disturbs their cozy, tidy, little nest. When they feel threatened, they and all their like-minded friends come out of the woodwork to attack whoever was unlucky enough to rouse their ire, and they all band together in a single-minded fury to destroy.

Some people are like honeybees. They work constantly, too, like ants, and they do very good work. But, they are talented and gifted enough to amass great riches for themselves, which they guard jealously, and do not share with anyone – to the point of sacrificing their own lives in defense of their sweetness, rather than sharing it with anyone else.

Some people are like butterflies. They are visually extremely beautiful, wearing the brightest and most intricate colors, but they can never forget that they were once ugly worms. That focus on the ugliness inside them means that their outward beauty is brittle and fleeting, and most have very short lives.

And some people, a very few people, are like dragonflies. Dragonflies are beautiful, too, but not in a showy way. The sun has to strike their wings just right for the shine to be seen. They are hard workers, too – and they spend their lives consuming the blood-sucking mosquitoes that plague mankind. They don’t make a lot of noise advertising that they are ridding the world of the disease, pain, and temptation to scratch that mosquitoes bring, they just quietly go about their life-saving business, flashing sunlight reflected from their fast-moving wings. Dragonflies have another secret name: they are the mosquito hawks.

And those people, I love.


386: 10 Things YOU Will Learn If You Become a Teacher

10. You will discover where patience comes from – from multiple, multiple, multiple opportunities to practice it. Every day, every hour of every day – some days, every minute of every hour.

9. You will discover a little of what being a mom is about (at least from 8 until 4) in that you will NEVER, EVER, NEVER have enough time to do what you need to do, much less what you want to do. Just do the best you possibly can, and the rest waits until tomorrow – or you can cheat and work on it at home, too……………

8. Organization. You will learn to be organized….or you will die. Beneath the huge, towering pile of papers.

7. How not to panic. You will learn that most things are not red, white or blue emergencies (red = blood, white = ’bout to vomit, blue = not breathing) and that being calm helps everyone around you be calmer and not scream quite so much, too. AND they will teach you what to do about the red, white and blue ones.  Really, they will. I promise.

6. You will learn to live on less money. You will have more vacation time, but no money to go anywhere. Meh.

5. You will learn first-hand about second chances and mercy, neither of which are deserved, and both of which you will occasionally dispense in the process of forging responsible, independent adults out of what you started with, which defies description, in some cases. Most cases.

4. You will discover and marvel at the incredible diversity of small humans. Every day. Even within the same child.

3. You will wish you could help more of them who so very obviously need someone to love them, at least more than they are getting. Every day.

2. You will learn how to keep your mouth shut, and you will learn when you can’t keep your mouth shut, and you will learn when you should NOT keep your mouth shut.

1. You will plumb the depths of your knowledge, your craftiness, your strength, your compassion, your flexibility, your stubbornness, your creativity, and your humanity, and discover that you are far more than you ever thought you were. That’s why.download



226: Run of Bad Luck

I always think that things go fairly well for people who are trying very hard to do the right things and live lives that do not harm others. I think that when things don’t go well, it means you have not been doing the right things. You need to search and see where you need to improve. Now, I know that is not true in every case – of course it isn’t. However, for me, usually when things don’t go well it actually is something I’ve done or contributed to – not every time, true, but usually…..

I think there is the big guy sitting up there in Heaven, looking down on us creatures who are mostly making mistakes with our lives, decisions and actions, and I think usually he lets the natural consequences of our foolish actions just….happen. Sometimes, for reasons I don’t understand, he does intervene – on both the good and the not-so-good side of things. Sometimes he lets things happen because we need to learn that it is not smart to fool with Mother Nature: don’t poke sticks at grizzly bears. Dumb ways to die.

Sometimes he steps in and saves us because there are still things we are supposed to do with our lives. I woke up on the beach getting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from a total stranger when I was about eight years old, after I had been sucked under by an undertow at the Bahia Honda bridge on the Florida Keys. I still don’t know who the man was who saved me, but I owe him a lifetime of gratitude that I did not die that day. I don’t think I even said ‘thank you’ when I came to!

At any rate, my recent run of poor luck leaves me some reflective opportunity about my recent motivations – whether I have been working for the good or for other nefarious purposes. Have I fallen short somewhere?

164: Morbid, with a really catchy tune


I have been humming this dad-gum thing all day.

My mom sends me e-mails of all sorts. I am not sure where she FINDS these things.  This one is a safety video from Australia about safety around trains. But it also incorporates the silliest other ways to die as well, in a cute cartoon format that is really funny to watch. It reminds me of the Darwin Awards (Google it).

If you have never looked up the Darwin Awards, the premise is this: Charles Darwin is the author of the Theory of Evolution, or the transcendence of the human species – WE are supposedly its pinnacle. The theory goes something like this: we all evolved, slowly and with great trial and error, from single-celled organisms, into what we have today, and our species is constantly improving itself because of the principle of “survival of the fittest.” This means the dumb ones are continually being killed off, due to their own stupidity, before they have the chance to pass along their genes to the next generation. After millions of years of this sort of survivalist breeding, we should all be geniuses, right? Well. Yeah, right.

The Darwin Awards are a tongue-in-cheek nod to the people who are stupid enough to remove themselves from the gene pool in the most absurd ways imaginable. Just look it up and read the stories of some of the past winners, an overwhelming percentage of whom are male. Lately, the Awards have been expanded to include those who don’t actually manage to kill themselves, but who DO manage to render themselves incapable of reproduction. The buck stops here. Those stories, like this cute train safety video clip, are also morbidly funny, and I challenge you to read them without laughing. Yes, people DIE, but it is their own stupid fault.

The link to the train video, so YOU can be humming it all day long, too:  http://www.upworthy.com/australia-officially-has-the-most-adorably-morbid-train-safety-video-ever?c=upw1