Converging new years: Baja and Rosh Hashanah

Norton grapes growing in Missouri.jpg

Grapes serve as a symbol for the new year in Baja. They parallel the round challah and apples I eat during the Jewish new year. Photo credit: “Norton grapes growing in Missouri” by Don Kasak – Flickr: Chaumette Winery. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

This week, I’ve had much to celebrate. And contemplate. I can thank two converging new years for the opportunity. The evening of September 24 marked the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Then on the 25th, The Washington Post published a story of how I spent the Gregorian Calendar new year in Baja California, Mexico.

I see Rosh Hashanah as a time to consider the previous year and the coming year. As one tashlich service leader put it, it’s a good time to contemplate how we balance power with kindness, emotions with principles, and intelligence with wisdom.

And as for the publication process?  That was a chance, as always, to take stock of my own writing — what inspires me, how I approach the craft, what I aspire to do with it, and how I take feedback along the way (especially when the editor has plenty).

Shanah tovah to all celebrating, and may everyone have a sweet weekend.

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Look who’s faculty

Books and computer

The view at my new desk.

It’s official: I’m on the English Department faculty at Gallaudet University. My official title is Lecturer II. After a few years of a full-time but temporary position, teaching is officially part of my life.

I’ve been quiet about this change here on the website, but it’s been a major presence since March. That’s when I learned of the English Department posting, summoned the courage to ask writers and editors I respect to write recommendations, updated my CV, and then sent off my application. In April, I received an invitation to interview. By early May, I had learned that an interview for a faculty position means meeting with the search committee, the department chair, and the dean, mingling with students and would-be colleagues at a reception, and giving a teaching demonstration to a classroom full of faculty members and upperclassmen–all within a few hours.

Before too long, the dean offered me the job.

I started teaching in my new capacity with the fall semester, which just closed out its fourth week.

This is both a change from and a continuation of what I did for three years as a temporary instructor. I’m grateful for this new phase, and look forward to sharing my experiences and insights here.

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The Google for Media summit, Storify style

Google for Media title imposed over a photo

Journalists and all creative users of video, data, and technology: The Google for Media summit in NYC last week was pretty mind-blowing. From the Google Trends workshop alone, I had dozens of story ideas. And did you know Miley Cyrus crashed her fans’ Google hangouts?

If you’re interested in what we learned, check out this Storify summary. You may see a familiar face in the tweets!

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Filed under Community of writers, Events, Writing and technology

A Little Life Hack: WordPress Customer Service

laptop screen displaying a red poster

Poster designed by the author via keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Earlier this month, a horrendous customer service call made headlines. Being the glass-half-full kind of gal that I am, I want to share a sunnier experience with people paid to listen to us whine.

It starts with a WordPress blog–just like the one you’re reading now. I’ve used WordPress for nearly eight years now, and currently own or contribute to half a dozen WP sites.

When I’ve bumped up against the occasional website snafu, I’ve always been able to pluck an answer from the help topics or the forums and fix the problem myself. Then I came up against email forwarding that mysteriously stopped. We’re talking about the service where you can take an address like info@funkycucumber.com and automatically forward it to me@gmail.com (if you’re not doing this yet for your own website, look into it!* It’s free. And it works great. Except when it occasionally doesn’t). Continue reading

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Filed under Public relations/communications, Writing and technology

Publication: Morsels on Morse in The Washington Post

Please ring bell door sign

This sign inspired the lede of my article. Photo by moi.

My article in this week’s Washington Post Food section opens:

A sign on the door of Best Kitchen Supply on Morse Street NE asks patrons to press a buzzer to get in, but regulars know the truth: The door is rarely locked. Within, they find more insider secrets in the form of kitchen treasures of every kind, their prices as inviting as the open door….

You can read the full article online now and catch it in tomorrow’s print edition.

What a fun process this was–really an excuse to bum around some of my favorite shops in D.C. and pick the minds and hearts of the people in them. I focused on three places: Best Kitchen Supply, A. Litteri, and Afrik International Market. I both hope and worry that these morsels on Morse won’t stay a secret for long.

My reporting, as well as my 11-year history as a shopper of Florida Avenue Market businesses, all come together in this piece, and will be tested by readers in the online chat. Tune in to Free Range on Food on Wednesday, 7/23, at noon. I’ll share the virtual Q&A with, among others, a 10-year-old chef-to-be.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

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Filed under DC, Food writing, History

Morning Bread

Morning breadIn the previous post, I shared some of my experience cooking for 40+ acrobats. Though the menu board in the dining room listed details of only our lunches and dinners, the breakfasts were also documentation-worthy. Part of what made them legendary (at least in my mind) was the bread.

Let me set the scene: The four of us cooks would stumble into the kitchen by 6:15 a.m. to set up a breakfast rotation of housemade chai and granola, a hash with whatever grass-fed meat the monkeys (aka acrobats) hadn’t gobbled up the night before, potato hashbrowns, oatmeal, and/or kitcheree. Coffee, hot water for tea, and hot chocolate, too.

One mainstay of these breakfasts was Chef Josh‘s overnight bread, which is an easy and delicious project for cooks at any level. As the name suggests, you start this bread the night before. Instead of the usual routine of letting the bread dough rise for about an hour a couple of times before baking, this one rises slowly over six or eight hours. (If you’re interested in the technical why and wherefore, the key is the high volume of salt. It slows the yeast’s activity).

Here’s a recipe for the bread, scaled down to make one large or two small loaves (recipe after the jump). Continue reading

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Filed under Events, Food writing, Healthy eating, Recipes

Cooking for acrobats

photo 5

I just spent two weeks cooking real food 14 hours a day for 40 acrobats.

You may ask: What do you mean by real food? Or perhaps Who are these acrobats?

The answers are: 1) Food from scratch, with locally sourced produce, dairy, and meat, and nary a processed ingredient in the pantry (thus the long hours); and 2) The participants and teachers of the Acro Revolution Teacher Training in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

The four-person kitchen crew had only met by Facebook prior to our arrival. I came in wondering about a number of variables, including how we would all get along and how my overseeing the vegetarian and vegan offerings would work with the meat dishes.

I didn’t have to worry. Helmed by Chef Josh (second from right), the group gelled quicker than the cream atop our unhomogenized local milk.

Acro Revolution kitchen crew

The cooks of the Acro Revolution Teacher Training were (from left) Rich, Nina, Josh, and your intrepid author.

We developed a flow, and laughed hysterically at the in-jokes that popped up along the way. Oh, we sure did.

Continue reading

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Filed under Healthy eating, Local food