i have email in my inbox sitting long unanswered.

i came home to a cold and dark apartment, where i found a book with a handwritten note from my now-departed houseguest, who was so beautiful asleep on my couch that i did everything i could to avoid waking her.

i really want pizza & beer & to dance with my friends until i’m out of breath from laughter.

i have been wasting too much time trying to come up with my halloween costume.

i read a quiet, small, sweet graphic novel earlier in the week that hit close to home.

this time of year i fall in love with the midwest over & over & over again. this season is my “mysterious stranger”, & i could never live somewhere where the leaves don’t turn & where sweaters aren’t a necessity.

my table is covered with magazines & files & notebooks & books & a bright blue pen & a birth control packet left half-open.

today i am all about the smell of cold & grey wife-beater shirts & hot cider & cuffing my jeans up to accommodate my bike & drunk boys who pull you close to say silly things in your ear on the dance floor.

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The rain makes everything still and quiet. I’m sitting in the office on the third floor listening to cars on Daniel Street shush by. I’m uninspired to get any work done right now, which probably means that after lunch I should not come back to the office but should instead go somewhere else to work – there are distractions in the office, and people know where to find me, and I’m finding these days that I don’t really want to be found.

last night, following a sensational dinner, carl and i laid on the hard wood of my kitchen floor smoking cigarettes and talking about music and pedagogy and watching the fan blades turn over head. when he left he kissed my mouth in a totally innocent fashion and for the first time in weeks, maybe longer, i felt genuinely happy with no need of qualification or definition. he thanked me for dinner again and again, but how does one thank someone for a simple gesture that lifted from your chest an unbearable weight?

a cross-posted list

thinking about matt leaving for baghdad, and how fucked up i am over it. last night i wanted to call him back and keep him on the phone because if he was on the phone, he couldn’t be sent away from me and sarah and greg and his family and his wife and everyone else who loves him – because you can’t know him and not love him. and yet i know that this love is enough, that it will wrap layers of protection around him, and that it will bring him home to us.

thinking about assessment in online pedagogy, and how the things i’m reading point to a lack of research in this area. thinking that i have, once again, found myself at a crossing point where my reading and my interests and my various jobs are all meshing, and that maybe this is a direction that will really work. i spent an hour last night requesting books from the library, and will spend another hour or two tonight requesting articles. this is a good feeling, and borders on the excitement i’ve been so desperately looking for.

thinking about sex – ok, thinking about sex too much. it’s been a long time, and i find myself wondering if what i need is just some rockin’ sexual chemistry to knock me out of this ongoing neutral.

thinking about the turn of the season, the coming of fall, and sleeping warm between flannel sheets. thinking about pumpkin soup and hot chocolate and corn mazes and the crunch of leaves underfoot. thinking about football games on tv and mugs of hot cider and the way the light is golden this time of year.

thinking about chemistry. i spent most of yesterday baking challah for our (very early) rosh hashanah dinner. this particular recipe requires three rises – make the dough, rise an hour, knead the dough, rise an hour, braid the dough, rise an hour, and then into the oven it goes. the dough just would not rise – at least not to my expectations – and while i swam my laps yesterday the not-rising dough turned into this whole allegory for my relationships in the past year – y’know, bad chemistry, or not enough heat, or lopsided braiding, etc – and i had prepared this whole witty story in my head that i was going to present as i took the lopsided flat loaf out of my bag and set it on the table – and then it was perfect. perfect – and i’m sure there’s an allegory to go with that as well, but i haven’t figured it out yet.

thinking about talking like a pirate – it is, after all, talk like a pirate day, and it’s too silly of a thing not to be all about. i am wearing my pirate bandana and my super wench tee with pride.

Challah

From Ochef.com

Ingredients:

4 C unbleached bread flour
2 T sugar
1 t salt
1-1/3 t instant yeast
2 T vegetable oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
3/4 C plus 2 T to 1-1/8 C water, at room temperature
2 egg whites, whisked until frothy, for egg wash
Sesame or poppy seeds for garnish

Instructions:

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs and yolks, and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Mix with a spoon (or on low speed with the paddle attachment) until all the ingredients gather and form a ball. Add the remaining water, if needed.

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and knead for about 10 minutes (or mix at medium-low speed for 6 minutes with the dough hook), sprinkling in more flour if needed to make a soft, supple, but not sticky dough. The dough should register approximately 80°F (27°C).

Lightly oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a boule and transfer into the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Ferment for 1 hour at room temperature.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 2 minutes to degas. Re-form it into a ball, return the ball to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and ferment for an additional hour. It should be at least 1-1/2 times its original size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 3 equal pieces for 1 large loaf, or 6 pieces for 2 loaves. (Or, for a celebration challah, divide it into 3 equal pieces and combine 2 of those pieces and form them into 1 large dough. Take this larger piece and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Take the smaller dough and divide it into 3 pieces as well; in the end, you will have 3 large pieces and 3 small pieces.) Regardless of the size of the loaves you decide to make, form each of the pieces into a boule, cover them with a towel, and let them rest on the counter for 10 minutes.

Roll out the pieces into strands, each the same length, thicker in the middle and slightly tapered toward the ends. Braid them using the 3-braid method shown. (If making the celebration challah, lay the smaller braid on top of the larger braid, gently pressing the smaller braid onto the larger to adhere.) Line a sheet pan with baking parchment and transfer the loaf or loaves to the pan. Brush the loaves with the egg wash. Mist the loaves with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or place the pan in a food-grade plastic bag.

Proof at room temperature for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the dough has grown to 1-1/2 times its original size.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) (325°F (160°C) for the celebration challah) with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Brush again with egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf. The bread should be a rich golden brown and register 190°F (88°C) in the center.

When done, transfer the bread to a rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.

Yield: Makes 1 large braided loaf, 2 smaller loaves, or 1 large double-braided celebration loaf

upon hearing about my insane schedule, my friend told me “as long as you’re happy, that works”. i wasn’t sure what to say. am i happy? i dunno. this is a very good, very challenging life – i can’t imagine being anywhere else or doing anything else right now. i am taking a difficult load of classes (even after dropping one this week), but it’s good because i feel like i’m in way over my head and want with everything in me to understand the things i’m reading about. i am constantly surrounded by interesting, funny, intelligent, awesomely weird and wonderful people – coworkers, friends, family. i spend every spare moment reading, which is all i ever wanted for my life. i struggle to make it through the long days – and then i have moments of clarity and peace with the wind in my hair riding my bike home in the dark, or of perfect synchronicity in the pool when the rhythm of my breath determines the rhythm of my laps, or of abandon on the dance floor, being spun around and around by my friend while i just laugh and laugh.

but am i happy? i dunno. i’m tired, mostly, and in the back of my mind is the siren call of the camino, of packing up and leaving this place in a year and setting off for places unknown. while doing research for the new course management system i’m going to be running, i got distracted by looking at developmental partner schools in spain, thinking that the things i’m doing now might open those doors for me in a year or two. i think, though, that i’ve given up on speculating where life is going to take me – and i’m just trying to be in it as much as i can. and that – that is good.

Spicy Sausage & Cheese Tortilla

from the Spanish cookbook in that series of terrific bargain cookbooks that you only really find at Borders

5 T olive oil (or so)
6 oz frying chorizo (not sure how this differs from other chorizo – I just got what Meijer had) or spicy sausage, thinly sliced
1 1/2 lb waxy potatoes, thinly sliced (I used 4-6 medium sized Idaho gold potatoes)
2 Spanish onions, halved and thinly sliced (I used 1 LARGE sweet onion)
4 eggs
2 T chopped fresh parsley + more for garnish (optional)
1 C grated Cheddar

Heat 1 T of the oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the sausage until golden brown and cooked through. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper (I used a paper towel). Add 2 more T oil to the pan and fry the potatoes and onions for 2-3 minutes, turning frequently. Your pan will be VERY full. Cover tightly and cook over a gentle heat for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until softened and golden. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, parsley, cheese, sausage, and plenty of seasoning – I added some fresh rosemary. Gently stir in the potatoes and onions until coated, taking care not to break up the potato too much. Wipe out the pan with kitchen paper and heat the remaining oil. Add the potato mixture and cook, over a very low heat, until the egg begins to set. Use a metal spatula to prevent the tortilla from sticking and allow the uncooked egg to run underneath. Preheat the broiler to high. When the base of the tortilla has set (approx 5 minutes), place the tortilla under the broiler until it is set and golden.

Good with something sweet – I served it with vegetarian quiche and a fruit salad. The cookbook recommends serving it with a tomato and basil salad, which would be fantastic as well. It didn’t look much like the photo – I think my potatoes were too irregular, and I probably had too many to begin with – but it smelled fantastic and tasted even better.