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apartment hunting (or, the cultivation of gratitude)

peach-oatmeal bread 1

I have learned so much in the past several months, practical life lessons that I hope will serve me even when I’m not moving and/or planning a wedding (I hope not to do the former for awhile; I don’t plan to do the latter ever again).

Let’s go way back to the middle of July. It’s a good reminder, this memory, as I’m now sitting in AN APARTMENT ALL OUR OWN (rental, that is, but “ours” enough for me). You might think that gratitude should come naturally, but it doesn’t always, not as it ought to. I can’t say it has been easy for me in these past few weeks, what with all of the sitting on the floor to eat dinner whilst waiting for our belongings to arrive, and taking our sweet time to choose a mattress we really wanted and thus being relegated to the air mattress and then (upon its arrival) the futon until only a week ago, and ordering a lovely dining room table with a nine-day wait prior to delivery, and putting together the chaos known as things-purchased-from-Ikea, and going to Ace Hardware with greater frequency than I ever could have anticipated, and the fact that there are still a few piles on the floor.

So I am thinking back to apartment hunting, because man! am I ever glad that is over. And we were successful! I celebrate the victory, still — and await the day when the present trials join that time in my stash of long-term memories.

And so today, I have some lessons to share from our search for a home. Surely it’s just a great big metaphor for life, right? Challenging but rewarding, the result never perfect but yours and thus worth celebrating, and so on and so forth. With that in mind, this can apply to you, too, even if you are not seeking to acquire a rental property in the East Bay of California.

Twelve Lessons from Apartment Hunting, by Stacy Ladenburger

1. Bad curtains signify unappealing carpeting, seventies-style cupboards, strange elevators, foul-smelling hallways and rental applications that are copies of copies of copies. If the curtains are bad, save some time and stay away.

2. Apartment building names like “the Majestic” communicated in cursive across the side of the structure signify more or less the same. Proceed accordingly.

3. Craigslist ads without pictures, however, do not necessarily mean what you think. Visit, even if you think it inadvisable.

4. This also applies to ads featuring atrocious grammar, and/or missing crucial information such as one digit of the landlord’s phone number.

5. All apartment open houses will take place between the hours of eleven and one. They will be located at non-adjacent points throughout the city. Pack a lunch.

6. The rental market these days is tough, and good apartments are hard to come by. In other words, you are not deciding if the apartment is cool enough; the landlord is deciding if you are cool enough.

7. On a busy downtown street, “It’s very quiet here!” is not necessarily a positive thing.

8. Grown artist men currently living in apartments you are considering for your future abode may have plastic cases full of Barbies with custom clothing and labeled with phrases such as “Real [Expletive] Housewives of Oakland,” as well as large mirrors and shiny red curtains throughout their homes. And also dude shoes! This is not a judgement but only an observation.

9. Sometimes currently inhabited apartments are instructive in the type of person you ought to be if you are to live in them. Sometimes they are just very, very strange. If the latter, at least you will have stories (see number 8).

10. When you find yourself enthusiastically saying, “Well, this one’s not as bad as we thought!” you should probably stop for the day.

11. Apartment hunting unveils what you value, which for us apparently includes sunlight, a nice kitchen and the absence of carpets. All else is negotiable.

12. When you look at apartments that fit your age and lifestyle, you see possible versions of yourself, five-to-seven years older, moving out of the now-vacant spaces. For us, this included trendy-looking people with babies, which may or may not be foreshadowing. Please check back in seven years to see if we have become more hip, and/or parents.

And so, not only did we end up with a home but also we learned important life lessons! What more can a person demand from a trying experience? Well, frankly, I would have appreciated having snacks whilst going through it (see number 5). Thus, in case you are embarking on some sort of difficult task that likewise would benefit from snacks, or in case you simply wish to celebrate with me the wonderful apartment we did find, I give you peach-oatmeal bread.

peach-oatmeal bread 2

peach-oatmeal bread 3

(Are peaches still in season where you live? Apparently they remain abundant well into September in the great state of California. I have lost all sense of what would be occurring were I still in Michigan.)

sliced peaches

fresh bread

The top of this bread bakes to a lovely golden brown and develops that perfect, sweet crunch I adore (this crisp exterior only lasts through the first day, but the bread remains delicious for several days). The slices are dense and soft, with little pockets of jammy peach hidden throughout. Pair with coffee for a truly comforting experience, and be glad for your home or your dining room table or whatever it is that brings you joy, and recall with fondness all those lessons you’ve learned, and are learning, as you go along your way.

peach-oatmeal bread 4

Peach-Oatmeal Bread

Adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

I’ve given the weights for the flours, oats and peaches, as I deviated from the original recipe most notably in these areas, and these are the cups and weights I used. Dial back to two cups of peaches if you want fewer pockets of fruit (though I can’t imagine!), and peel the peaches if you like — I don’t find it necessary.

2 heaping cups / 14 oz. peaches (about two large peaches)

1 3/4 cups / 7 1/2 oz. whole wheat flour

3/4 cup / 3 1/2 oz. all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, fresh if possible

1 cup / 3 1/4 oz. old-fashioned rolled oats

2 eggs

1 cup milk (low fat is fine; more fat surely won’t hurt)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, and set it aside.

Cut the peaches into small pieces; place in a strainer to drain.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Add the oats and peaches, stirring to coat the peaches.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and almond extract. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. If it needs more time, tent the pan with foil and bake for 10 minutes more. When the bread is done, cool it in the pan for 15 minutes, and then turn it out and let the bread continue cooling on a rack.

Yield: 1 loaf; 10-12 servings

peach-oatmeal bread 5

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