Life around my table


I recently read a book and I felt so understood. Not that I walk around the world feeling misunderstood on a regular basis, but when I read Shauna Niequist’s words from her latest book, “Bread and Wine,” I knew I wasn’t alone in my belief that the kitchen table is the most important piece of furniture in my home.

There is a sense of peace you experience when you read another’s words and know you have a connection. You understand the joy she’s talking about because you’ve experienced it. You understand the sacredness she’s referring to because food and family and faith are indeed things to be cherished.

And honestly, I didn’t know how deeply I treasured, adored, and needed people around my table until I read this book. I’ve always known that I loved it — but, oh my friends, it is so much deeper than that for me.

“Food is the starting point…,” Shauna says. I couldn’t agree more.

I love community. There is so much beauty when we can come together to slow down, open our homes, sit at each other’s tables listening to one another’s stories for hours and hours. We push our plates back, but then laugh as we reach for just one more bite of pasta puttanesca. I care about loving what we eat, sharing the food with people we love, and gathering people together; whether it’s for store-bought cookies or homemade pie. The gathering is most important. The community is of great significance.

My dear friend Shanti bought me this book. In her sweet note taped inside the front cover she said she couldn’t read this book without thinking of me. She quoted that exact same statement from Shauna. “Food is the starting point … the currency we offer to one another.” Apparently Shanti already knew I embody this truth — she knew me more than I did. Best friends have the ability to discern things like that about us. Thanks for understanding, Shanti.

It’s more than just about the food set around that table. It’s about life. And that pretty much means it’s about everything.

I love food. I love people. I love when the people I love are sitting around my table eating food. It creates a joy in the depth of my being. I love the sounds and smells and textures of life at my table. Bread being torn, beverages being poured, forks clinking the side of plates. The warmth. The community. Joy is all I experience.

There is something so beautiful about a houseful of people. There is something comforting about men and women who feel the freedom to come over to my home and make themselves at home. I want you to invite yourself over. I want you to help yourself to my cupboards of glasses and fridge full of food. It tells me I’ve done something right. You feel welcome, you feel safe, you feel cared for and loved.

As Shauna says, “Life at the table is life at its best for me, and the spiritual significance of what and how we eat, and with whom and where, is new and profound to me every day. I believe God is here among us, present and working. I believe all of life is shot through with God’s presence, and that part of the gift of walking with Him is seeing his fingerprints in all sorts of unexpected ways.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I think I was meant to be a host — in every sense of the word. I want to cook you things. I feel alive and connected to God’s voice and spirit by creating opportunities for the people I love to rest and connect and be fed at my table. What’s your favorite food? Come over to my apartment and I will make it for you. I feel confident saying that it would bring me more joy to serve you than it would be for you to eat whatever is on your plate.

Thank you for your words, Shauna. For many years I didn’t understand nor have the words to tell the truth about what I really love.

Living life around my table is my favorite place to be.

He Giveth More Grace

Poem by Annie Johnson Flint

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow’r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

Read this poem slowly, reflectively, and prayerfully. Ask God to make its truths real to you in your particular situation.

Be he said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Cinnamon-Swirl Bread

I really dig cinnamon bread. I think it’s the gooey cinnamon swirl, melted butter and rising yeast, and cinnamon-sugar crust that lures me in. There is just something about it that says, “homey deliciousness” to me. You agree?

When I make this bread–which is fairly often–Erick and I always say, “we should totally make french toast with this!”  Every time, because we’re so proud of our ingenious thinking, we act as if it’s the first time we’ve ever come-up with this brilliant scheme. Erick usually says, “Epic.” And I squeal like a 13 year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Food gets us really excited in the Horrmann household.

While this is a great idea in theory, it never works. We always eat the bread before it has a chance to get dipped and thrown in the pan. Someday. Maybe someday. Gotta have goals in life people.

This recipe is from the Sono Baking Company. It’s this bakery somewhere in Connecticut. My youngest brother bought this cookbook for me this past Christmas and I haven’t stopped baking since. If you’re looking for an amazingly well-written, semi-advanced, but simple baking book — this is my recommendation. John (he’s the baker who wrote the book) has made me a better baker. Truly.

Okay, I’ve plugged the book enough. Happy baking.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread


3/4 cup warm milk
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup pus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
6 1/2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
2/3 cup raisins (optional)


2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 large egg, beaten, for egg wash
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

To make the dough: In a small bowl, pour the warm milk over the yeast and let proof for 5 minutes. Make sure it gets bubbly.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, sugar, salt, and butter and beat on low speed until the butter breaks down and dissolves completely in the dry ingredients, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the yeast mixture and the water and beeat on low speed until the flour is absorbed and the ingredients are well combined, 1 to 2 minutes. The dough should be tacky but not sticky when you touch it. It should be damp enough that the dough still attaches a bit to the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too dry, it will collect around the paddle–add water by the tablespoon. (Err on the side of too much water; you can always add more flour as you knead.)

Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface. Knead by scooping the dough up from underneath with the thumb and the first tow fingers of each hand, then folding it over on itself. Give it a quarter-turn and repeat. As the gluten develops, the flour absorbs moisture; as you work it, the dough will pull together into a ball and become less tacky. Knead for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and springy. Pat the dough into a 9-inch round. Sprinkle with the raisins, and knead briefly to incorporate. Stretching it gently, fold in the left and right sides to the center, then the top and bottom. Place the dough, smooth side down, into a lightly oiled bowl, then turn the dough over so that both sides are coated with oil. Cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until increased in bulk by 1 1/2 times and very soft, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Deflate the dough and turn the dough in the bowl so the smooth side faces up. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again in a warm place until increased in bulk by 1 1/2 times, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, to make the filling: Stir together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Measure out 1/3 cup to sprinkle on the finished loaf; reserve it separately.

Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface, smooth side facing down. Gently stretch it to flatten it to a rectangle, about 6 by 14 inches, with a short side at the bottom. Make sure that the edges are not too thick, or you’ll end up with a loaf that sloped down in the center. Brush with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar filling, allowing a 1-inch border at the top and bottom. Rolling from the top, roll the loaf as tightly as you can into a log. Gently press the seams together. Place the loaf seam side down in a buttered 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until the loaf is increased in bulk by 1 1/2 times and has risen over the top of the pan, 30 to 45 minutes.

Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet, place it in the oven, and immediately reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees. Bake, rotating the sheet about two-thirds of the way through the baking time, until the crust is evenly golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 40-45 minutes. Turn the loaf out immediately, on its side, onto a wire rack to cool.

Brush the cooled loaf all over with the melted butter, and sprinkle with the reserved 1/3 cup cinnamon-sugar mixture. Transfer to a wire rack and let stand until the sugar dries, about 30 minutes.