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without a nice bow

Blue Bottle Granola

I will start with the good news: I am where I am supposed to be.

I move on now to the more confusing part of my current picture, but I promise to end with the positive. And also granola.

We moved to Oakland just over five months ago, and these have been months of murkiness and uncertainty: Why are we here? Why this state, why this city, why right now? Though it was entirely of our own accord that we chose to leave Michigan and come here, we were never quite sure why this was the place, why this was the answer to the question of where. I thought clarity would come quickly, forgetting that this is not how things tend to operate.

I’ve said before that we moved because we wanted adventure, and this is entirely the truth and also the best reason I can think of to uproot and move across the country. But the more tangible explanation is that we came for a teaching job for Ben. This meant that I quit my occasionally-frustrating-but-very-good job as the deputy director and editor of a nonprofit and weathered comments about how I was following my husband — I, of course, retorted loudly that we make our decisions together.

The first weeks in California, I got our apartment and lives organized and caught up on things like sleep, an item that had been neglected for the past few years thanks to my working-lady schedule and the fact that I am overzealous. Once settled and less tired, with the uncertainty and multitude of interests characteristic of my generation and a resume that makes me simultaneously over- and under-qualified, I started looking for work with a net cast wide. I am freelancing and have picked up some fabulous projects along the way, but I still haven’t found a full-time job. Always ambitious, set to succeed, I hate to even type the words.

These months have been exhausting. It has been a roller coaster — a really awful roller coaster that I would rather not be on anymore. I try to look ahead in my career and make those goals and plans I love so dearly, but I don’t get anywhere. If we were supposed to move here, I wonder, why doesn’t this make more sense? Why am I so confused?

Blue Bottle GranolaBlue Bottle Granola

I don’t know the answer. And without a nice bow with which to tie that whole thing up, I hesitate to even write about it. But I want to be honest, because I know I’m not the only one with a not-so-prettily-wrapped-up life. I’m also aware that life makes sense in retrospect, not when we are in the midst of it. I only understand what has transpired already because I can look back at it in context, seeing how one situation came from another, how all of my experiences are intricately interconnected. I try to take comfort in this. I try to calm down, to rest, to be patient. But none of that is easy.

I loved visiting Michigan for the holidays — walking into shops where they know my name, frequenting restaurants with menus I can quote, spending time with family and friends, knowing how to dress for the weather. It was familiar, and after months like these, that was air for suffocating lungs. Yet at the end of it, I wanted to come back here. To come home.

When we arrived, it felt like spring. Apparently the sun shines here in January, and everything is vibrant and green. Outside, particularly in the morning, it smells like the earth, like springtime and hope.

And I finally feel that this is where we belong.

When it comes right down to it, when I’m not being so demanding, that is enough: to feel like I am home. Whatever that might mean, whatever comes next, we have that assurance.

Blue Bottle GranolaBlue Bottle Granola

In honor of this feeling, I offer granola straight from Blue Bottle Coffee, which also calls the Bay Area home. The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee is a beautiful cookbook full of musings on coffee from founder James Freeman and recipes for sweets from his wife, Caitlin. Ben and I have devoured the book since Christmas, when it was gifted to us by my sister and brother-in-law (thank you!!); I can’t recommend it enough.

Now, I recognize that I’ve given you granola already, and more than once. This is, perhaps, excessive for a blog only one year old (precisely! today! I nearly didn’t realize!). But these three recipes are distinct, I assure you. This one bakes up into sizable clusters of crisp, sweet-salty oats and nuts — perfect for snacking, which is how I typically enjoy my granola. But it is fit, too, for breakfast, along with milk or yogurt, fruit and, of course, a good cup of coffee. This is a relatively sweet granola, but the balance of flavors is perfect — absolutely worth a small indulgence.

May this bring you a small taste of my home, and may you feel as though you are right where you belong in yours.

Blue Bottle Granola

Brown Sugar + Winter Spice Granola

Adapted from James Freeman, Caitlin Freeman and Tara Duggan’s The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee

The genius part of this recipe is the strategy for baking the granola in a thick layer for a long time at low heat, yielding those ever-coveted clusters, which are a wonderful thing, indeed.

My oven was being fussy and wouldn’t stay down to the correct temperature (given below), so I kept a careful eye on the granola and took it out a bit earlier than noted here. Make sure you check your oven’s temperature and do likewise if it is inaccurate!

1 1/2 cups / 11.5 oz / 325 g packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup / 80 ml / 80 g water

4 cups / 14 oz / 400 g rolled oats

1 1/2 cups / 6 oz / 170 g walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups / 6 oz / 170 g pecans, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon Maldon sea salt, or other large flaky sea salt

1/3 cup / 80 ml / 71 g olive oil

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar and water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, walnuts, pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix well.

Add the olive oil and vanilla to the brown sugar syrup and stir until thoroughly combined, then pour over the oat mixture. With your hands, mix the ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Transfer the mixture to a rimmed 13 x 18-inch baking sheet and pat into an even layer; it will be thick but shouldn’t be higher than the rim of the pan.

Bake for 75 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and use a large spatula to flip the granola, keeping it in as large of chunks as possible. Return the granola to the oven and bake for about 60 minutes more, until completely dry and no longer soft when you take a bite. Let cool before serving.

Stored in a tightly sealed container at room temperature, the granola will keep for 2 weeks.

Yield: approximately 15 servings

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