Kendra’s Honey Oat Grapefruit Scones

april in chicago
us

Tim and I came home yesterday from a quick weekend visit to Chicago. The first time we’ve been back since Christmas, this trip was a whirlwind of loud, excited family conversation, the kind that leaves you out of breath, with everyone talking over everyone else; long, lazy mornings, the ones you almost forgot how much you loved, complete with a certain white, fluffy dog breaking down gates and waiting outside your bedroom door until you let him in; a blog meetup downtown, organized by the just-as-lovely-in-person! Nicole of Eat This Poem, whose months-ago idea for extending her work conference led to a Saturday lunch made up of six people who’d driven, taken trains, walked city blocks and navigated parking garages to come out and share a few hours with some of the Internet voices they find dear.

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super easy oat bread

super easy oat bread

Here’s the thing no one tells you about change: it affects you, and in ways you might not plan for.

Every day, we’re surrounded by the details of our life, be they people or objects or geography, and, even when it’s by your own choice, when you start moving around a lot of those details—whether city, job, church, relationships, house, diet, marital status or say, all of those things—it can unexpectedly, out of nowhere, hit you hard.

Because when enough things around you begin to disappear, you may start to feel like you will, too.

nashville home

This, as you already know, is a post about how I moved last week. It’s the story of how I left an adorable house in East Nashville that I shared with three roommates, a house I only moved into in February and had barely settled into, packed up all of my Tennessee belongings (there aren’t many) and together with Tim and one of our good friends, moved to another side of town.

nashville bookshelves

This new house is nice. It has built-in bookshelves and hardwood floors. It has air-conditioning and a washer/dryer set. It’s the first place where I’ve ever signed a lease and the first rental to earn me my very own library card. More than anything, this house has the distinct privilege of being the first house we’ll live in, me and Tim—the initial place we’ll call home together.

nashville hallway

And, like everything else in my life over the last six months, this house is new. It’s something I don’t know very well. It’s something that will take time to feel familiar.

It’s change.

nashville

There are so many things I love about Nashville: the great food (Marche, Margot, City House, Silly Goose, Burger Up, Baja Burrito, Mas Tacos), the great coffee shops (new favorite: Edgehill Cafe), the rolling hills south of the city, the beautiful cliffs to the east. I love that it hardly snows. I love that it will be warm in November. I love, most obviously, Tim.

nashville home, right side of fireplace

But every now and then, I’ll be driving down a street and wish I saw a Dominick’s on the corner (who says that?). I’ll meet someone for the first time and wish they already knew my name. I’ll see the regular reminders that I’m still new here in my Illinois driver’s license or matching license plate. And sometimes, amidst missing some old details and observing the new, I’ll wonder if I’m not gone, too.

nashville home, through the window

it’s the kind of thing that has me asking, What is it that makes us who we are anyway? Is it our income? Our house? Our family and friends? Do our jobs define us? Our life’s work? Our relationships? Our connections? Our family?

I think I am learning that really, anything that can change isn’t what makes us—not our age or our savings accounts or our things or our hobbies. Not our spouse. Not our friends. What makes us who we are is something deeper than all of those things—something that remains even when all our life details change and however many times they change.

Our identity may often get lost in the details around us, and because of that, it is a sort of gift to lose those details, so at least in the midst of it, you see your soul—that eternal, imperishable part of us that knows it’s made for something more than this life. That’s who I really am, in Illinois or in Nashville. That’s who you really are, too.

Living in my new house, living in the next.

nashville home, view of garage

They took away what should have been my eyes,
(But I remembered Milton’s Paradise)
They took away what should have been my ears,
(Beethoven came and wiped away my tears)
They took away what should have been my tongue,
(But I had talked with God when I was young)
He would not let them take away my soul,
Possessing that, I still possess the whole.

– Helen Keller

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that kind of discovery (olive oil granola)

my favorite olive oil granola

There are some things in life that grow on you—places that get better every time you visit, favorite movies that catch you with something new each time you watch, people that seem funnier and smarter and kinder every single time you talk.

With these things, it’s rare you didn’t like them at least a little to begin with; you probably did. It’s just that, for whatever reason, when you liked them enough and kept experiencing them again and again, your affection kept increasing—and in continued exposure, you found the marvelous reality that discovery, even or maybe especially in something familiar, leads to greater love.

That’s how I feel about granola.

granola in the pan

Our back story—mine and granola’s—is pretty ordinary: I had granola bars in the school lunches I made myself in high school. I threw them in my messenger bag in college. I even bought bulk packs at Costco or Sam’s when I worked my first adult job, so I could grab a couple to stick in my purse or to make a quick breakfast on my way out the door. You could say I always liked granola, and we spent many years on good terms.

But. Then sometime after I started this food blog, I decided to make granola (here and then here and then in bars last November, and there was also a batch last December 24 that I never told you about, which smelled sweet with cinnamon and cloves and Christmastime). I know it’s nothing difficult, baking granola. It’s as simple as stirring, spreading and putting in the oven. But over the last year or so, I’ve discovered how much better granola can taste when it’s homemade, fresh out of the oven, fragrant and golden with clumps. I’ve discovered that I like it in a bowl, with milk; spread over yogurt, with or without fruit; eaten straight from the pan, in big fistfuls I bring to my mouth.

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here’s to the new (maple blueberry coffee cake)

blueberry coffee cake

As this week marks many lasts of 2009, my kitchen and I are marking a first, one I hope to continue into the new year, and it’s as simple as a new ingredient: whole wheat pastry flour, a fresh player in our cooking arsenal.

Do you already know whole wheat pastry flour? Very fine in texture, whole wheat pastry flour comes from a whole white wheat made with softer berries than the kind used for regular whole wheat flour. It’s very fine in texture, high in starch and low in protein, with lower gluten than what’s in white flour. It’s particularly good for using in crumbly baked goods as it yields results similar to those made with regular white flour, though admittedly not as light and airy, and it’s more nutritious. You can substitute it one-to-one for all-purpose flour in cakes, pies, muffins and some cookies.

Working from the recipe for Huckleberry Maple Coffee Cake at 101 Cookbooks, I christened my new-found flour last weekend in a sparkling blueberry coffee cake, the kind that is dense, with sweet crumbles all over the top and chock full of dark blue berries that stain all the dough they touch, creating bursts of almost-purple throughout.

blueberry maple coffee cake

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