friends

these things

The wind, a roar that chased us up the hill through the trees. Crows spilled upwards like smoke from trees of umber fire. November, new moon, cold days and silver light. The ocean has been like pounded steel most days, greased nickel when the wind pummels it at the land. I don't really at all like walking home in the dark, and I don't like the dark mornings much either. What I do like is bearing witness to lazy golden sunrises and pink-flushed sunsets, with no special effort on my part to seek them out.

Yesterday, a long-overdue visit with a best friend. Steaming chai fragrant with honey and superfoods. Bowls of nourishing vegetables, cooked and fermented and coddled just so. Bright magenta beet grapefruit juice. Wanders along familiar but slowly changing streets. The park, which is always there, peacocks, ducks. Bare feet on the beach, cold rock carved out by the last ice age. Books and beautiful tea. Conversation and company.

One day last week I watched Jer pull into the driveway as I came down the path. Once inside the door, he gently steered me back outside and around the bend in the road, where we watched a cat-like barred owl hopping around in the dry leaves and softly flying to perch atop the fence. The next morning before it was quite light, and in the evening (5 pm counts as evening now, right?) as soon as the dusk had settled, the barred owl's who-cooks-for-you call rang across the still backyards.

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almost

I wish I could do this every day. I'm sitting in a sunlit, clean house with a mug of tea and a jar of water and a square of dark chocolate. The birch tree out front has almost completely turned yellow. I've already wandered the garden several times (two raspberries!), tidied up and made a nest for our elderly cat, and tossed yet more onions and tomatoes in the oven. I feel - almost - at peace. We've been enjoying a long weekend (yay!). Yesterday I spent all afternoon painting white rabbits and yellow aspen on scraps of wood while listening to a charming audiobook, fed on a pleasant diet of tea and fresh caraway raisin bread that Jeremy started the day before.

I went to a lovely friend's lovely wedding reception recently, with the best bunch of friends. The weather was stormy, but delightfully so. The whole day was one long happy moment.

It's funny how moments like these can coexist, or at least be contrasted by those reigned by the less fun feelings. I have been so exhausted lately that the lovely moments seem few and far between. Sunday I spent curled on the couch, again with tea, and read. I feel very lost and frustrated when I think of how I spend most of my time at a job I really don't enjoy. It is a perfectly decent job, I'm sure, but somehow manages to be both the most boring and most stressful job I've experienced. At the reception it was so nice hearing about how my friends are following their passions and have found or are creating meaningful work. Over here at whine central (but without the wine), I have yet to figure that out for myself.

Still, there is plenty of good to celebrate. I made this pear tarte Tatin several weeks ago, and have been meaning to post about it ever since. I'm a little late for Canadian Thanksgiving, but it's a tasty way to end most any meal.

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Pear Cardamom Tarte Tatin Recipe: Choosing and Using Spices. Pastry: Terroirs de France, un million de menus

1/4 cup (50 g) butter, softened 1/4 cup sugar seeds from 10 cardamoms 1 tsp + ground cardamom 225 g (8 oz) puff pastry or use pastry recipe below +/- 4 ripe pears (the number of pears will depend on the size of the pears and the size of your pan)

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Spread the butter over the base of an ~8" cast iron skillet (or ovenproof pan or stoveproof cake tin). Spread the sugar evenly over the butter, then sprinkle the cardamom and cardamom seeds over the sugar. On a floured surface, roll out pastry to a circle slightly larger than the pan. Prick pastry lightly and set it on a baking sheet and chill.

2. Peel the pears, cut them in half lengthwise and core them. Arrange the pears, rounded side down, on the butter and sugar. Set pan over medium heat until the sugar melts and begins to bubble with the butter and the juice from the pears. If any areas are browning more than others (you can carefully lift a pear to check), move the pan, but do not stir.

3. As soon as the sugar has caramelized, remove the pan from the heat. Place the pastry on top, carefully tucking the edges down the side of the pan. Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is well risen (for puff) and golden.

4. Leave in the pan for 2-3 minutes until the juices have stopped bubbling. Invert the pan over a plate and shake to release the tart. (Put a large plate face-side down over the pan. Keep one hand flat on the center of the plate to hold it in place while the other hand lifts and flips the pan in one smooth motion. The hand on the plate needs to keep pressure on it and move with the pan.) It may be necessary to slide a spatula under the pears to loosen them. Serve warm.

Pastry (pâte brisée) - the high butter content of this recipe makes it a tasty substitute for puff dough 200 g flour 100 g chilled butter 50 + g ice cold water pinch salt Stir together flour and salt. Cut butter into small cubes, then cut into flour with a pastry cutter. Add enough water that you can form dough into a ball, then let it repose in the fridge for 30 minutes. This recipe makes slightly more than is needed for the tarte Tatin, so save the extra in the fridge for spontaneous weeknight baking, or something.

chaos sorted, tomatoes roasted

Ah September, I love this month! We've got our garden back in hand and are getting it ready for a cool, rainy winter. We learned a lot about gardens this summer, namely to not alternate rows of chard and kale because the kale shades out and stunts the chard, that a little goes a long way in the seed-scattering department, and that roasted tomatoes are a lifesaver. Having to toss moldering heirloom tomatoes for not having dealt with them quick enough is depressing. Luckily I came across Alana Chernila's roasted tomato recipe in time to save most of them. There was a little more to it, but in essence it came down to this: halve and core the tomatoes (I quartered some of the big ones) and lay them out on a parchment -lined baking sheet. Toss on some peeled garlic cloves, a touch of sea salt and black pepper, some fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil, and slow-roast for 5 hours in a 275° oven. I roasted mine in the evening so just left them in the oven (which I turned off) overnight to cool. Once they have cooled, scoop the tomatoes and liquid into a freezer bag and freeze, or keep in the fridge up to a few days. To make a lovely sauce, dice and sauté a yellow onion, add thawed tomatoes and simmer 30 minutes.

The past few weeks have involved intense sorting. This book came into our lives and has inspired a world of good, but also a lot of work and chaos in the process. For several weeks, it was tense (or I was) and I kept my head down, plowing along in my quest to create order. Needless to say it was not a great time for personal relationships as the thought of someone seeing our house with stuff strewn all over was horrific. I am fairly strongly affected by my external environment, so living in a mess, even a temporary one, caused great unhappiness. At this point I feel the need to point out that the process was dragged out because everyday tasks and obligations kept interfering- we did not spend several weeks locked in our house sorting through piles of belongings. I can happily say that the free-pile on our front lawn is dwindling and our house feels (and looks) so much better.

The next challenge I am facing is also the best: to relax. Due to the topics mentioned above (garden, house, chaos!), and also my job which can be stressful for me as it isn't well suited to my personality, I've been feeling pretty overwhelmed lately. Not to say that there aren't still plenty of tasks to check off on the kitchen chalkboard, there are, but they are in the realm of reasonable. I set up a mini studio for myself and am really looking forward to time spent quietly dabbling with paints. In anticipation of this glorious reprieve, I also brought home a small armful of books from the library. Friends! I'm sorry for being lame this last month, but it's better now, I promise. Let's find a misty forest to walk in, and maybe even some chanterelles, and drink tea and draw and giggle. Please, soon.

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again

It's interesting the roundabout ways in which we get what we want. I wanted another day vacation (actually I'd like many more, but let's not go there just yet), and here I am at home on the couch with stitches in my knee thanks to a careless move when building a sheet-metal shed yesterday. It's not that bad; I'll be back at work tomorrow, but when I woke up this morning it hurt a lot and I couldn't walk. Instead I managed an awkward painful hop-shuffle-drag gait across the house and called in sick so I can keep it still for the day. I'll have to work on a more comfortable way to get those other vacation days. Speaking of vacation, we just had an excellent week of freedom. We built a shed, swam at several new old beaches, cleaned the house and let it get messy again, harvested onions, had some dear family moments and saw an old friend, and explored tide pools. Again, please (though maybe without the shed).

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