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December 6, 2003
My rule helps me be regular in things I want to do regularly: pray, write, exercise. If I just do it because it's my rule, rather than asking myself what I feel like doing -- which is hazardous, because it probably won't be anything in my rule -- I'll have more consistency. And consistency feels good to me. Not perfection -- being perfectly consistent is not good for the soul. Quite consistent is fine. Plenty good enough. Better, in fact.

This is an odd time of year, though -- I am possessed, suddenly, by a demon who forces me to make hundreds of cookies. The cat wakes me with a plaintive howl for breakfast at five or so, and before I know it, I've mixed up a recipe of chocolate spritz. My thinking is that I will top each one with a dollop of chocolate ganache and a shiny dark coffee bean, and that they will be extremely elegant next to the vanilla ones Rose and I made yesterday.

It is true, though, that by the time all five dozen are baked, I still haven't said Morning Prayer or written an eMo or anything else. Okay for a Saturday, when many readers are sleeping in. But this happens on weekdays, too.

So do other things. I remember a recipe for Individual Cranberry Meat Loaves that I made only once, when I was twelve; as I recall, my brothers liked it, so maybe Q will, too. I will prepare it tonight, from a forty-year memory, and we'll see what happens. If it works, we will have succeeded in finishing all the leftovers from Thanksgiving in less than two weeks. This rarely happens, and will gratify Q's Depression-era conscience enormously.

And so prayer is delayed sometimes. The schedule goes slightly -- or profoundly -- awry. But those things that nudge it out of place are, themselves, worthy of prayer. The reminder that perfection is not a goal to be grasped by human beings. The memory of family meals from years ago. The prospect of offering hospitality. The stern memory of a time when everything was in short supply, when saving every last bit was important, a time that has permanently marked all those who lived through it.

And -- above all -- the knowledge that prayer, like every good thing, is a gift from God. We do not create all these things by ourselves. They come from somewhere. And there's a lot more.

Demon Chocolate Spritz Cookies

Cream together 1.5 cups butter and 1 cup sugar until nice and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup cocoa and beat it in. Add 1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla; mix well. Sift together -- or don't sift if you don't sift, some people just don't sift, no matter what -- 4 cups white flour and 1 tsp baking powder -- if you didn't sift, though, you'd better stir them together well, to get the baking powder evenly distributed throughout all that flour. You don't want somebody to get a mouthful of baking powder.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, a cup or so at a time, beating after each addition. Put mixture through a cookie press onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for seven minutes or so at 400 degrees Farenheit. You can press them close together, as spritz cookies don't spread. Don't overbake.

Don't have a cookie press? They're a lot of fun. But you can also roll the dough into 1-inch balls and flatten them just a little with the bottom of a glass.

Makes many dozen. Maybe four or five. Leave out the chocolate and you have vanilla spritz. Add ginger if you want to. Or don't, I don't care what you add. Not ketchup, though.
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