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Texas oranges and fresh cranberries and a cold winter’s day…

…all the inspiration I need for baking Cranberry Orange Tea Bread.  The mix of the sweet and tart on my tongue makes for a wonderful afternoon splurge with a cup of hot tea.  Wish I had company…

I once dreamed dreams of friends I would have when I moved back from Texas.  I imagined at least one good girlfriend in the neighborhood, maybe two doors down.  Most imaginary days, she’d drop by my house or the other way around — and we’d share lives over a cup of coffee or tea, with perhaps biscotti or tea bread to stoke our conversation.

But here I sit with three dogs.  And though the company is grand, my three friends aren’t the ones I envisioned having on my return to Soonerville.  Yet I have consolations, since I’ve made unexpected friends with my blog while hanging on to long cherished Texas friends and —  though neither live two doors down —  both the new and old do enrich my life.

My friend Ann lives two big dots down from me — the first dot is Dallas and the second is Houston and from there, it’s an hour to Ann.   As this tea bread of Ann’s was baking on Thursday, I sat down to write, with hope of putting into words what it was about Ann that made her such a good friend.  And with no intention to do so, I may have stumbled upon a pretty good recipe for friendship.

My friend’s a good listener.  And when she’s not listening, she tells a fine story.   I’ve kept every note or email she has ever sent me and sometimes I go back and read them just because.   She has a knack for expressing life with words — her words find my heart and even if they weren’t addressed to me, they would find my heart anyway.  She keeps life real, even when the real is pretty ugly.  She  inspires me to be more than I ever thought myself capable of.  She encourages but doesn’t push — she gives room to breathe, she let’s me say ‘no’, without trying to convince me of saying ‘yes.’   Distance nor time separate our friendship; months go by between visits, yet we easily pick up the threads that bind our lives in spite of skipping a few stitches.

My friend Ann is a gracious host.  I’ve never been to her house without her offering a cup of hot tea and a seat on her couch.  One time she served this tea bread, though I no longer recall the circumstances.  But I know when I asked about her recipe, she shared it with me and gave her daughter Vicky the credit.  And as I reflect upon it, that’s Ann to a “T” — she possesses such a strong sense of self that she has no need to borrow or pretend to own what is not rightly hers.  She is who she is, a broken cup full of  integrity that pours out love and truth.

Sometimes I dream of introducing one of my blog friends to Ann; these women live in each others Texas back yards, they are both sixty-something, both write beautiful words and both are long-time subscribers to The New Yorker magazine.  And as if that weren’t  enough to cement a friendship, they both like Dairy Bar…. a nice spot for breaking bread — to borrow an Ann-ism — even without a cup of tea.

It’s tricky to make introductions, sitting 2 dots and two clicks of a mouse away.  But maybe someday, I’ll click together the heels of a pair of ruby slippers, close my eyes and wake up to find myself sitting between these two friends in a booth at the Bar.  But while I’m dreaming of how best to connect two dots and two clicks, feel free to share this bread…. and your life with a special friend of yours.

From my life to yours…just a few clicks across the internet away.

Cranberry Orange Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp shortening
1 Tbsp grated orange peel
7/8 cup of orange juice
1 egg, well beaten
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped cranberries
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I prefer walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  Cut in shortening with pastry blender and then add juice, peel and egg.  Mix until well blended.  Sir in cranberries and nuts.  Turn ino a greased 9×5 loaf pan.  Bake 50 to 55 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool on rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pan.