gulls

gougère

Saturday mornings can be a time when the week catches up with me but I haven't yet caught up with the week. I spent this one at the kitchen table with coffee and a pile of cookbooks.

The wind is still roaring in from the sea with force, still slamming against the house and rushing through the trees. Our front lawn is littered with branches and the only birds I've seen out are seabirds and waterbirds. Today I was introduced to a Victoria tradition: the breakwater on a windy day. On one side the huge waves rolled in and on the other, wind devils danced across the water. Spray crashed over the boardwalk and the high whine of the wind funneling in towards shore filled our ears. There was a log-jam at the appearing-and-disappearing beach and gulls and cormorants climbed against the wind to stay motionless above the roiling water. We walked and staggered our way out along the breakwater, laughing and shrieking as the wave-spray crashed over us. I had my arm up when the spray from one wave arced above, and was immediately wet to the elbow as the wind and water found their way down my sleeve. Our rubber boots were filled to their tops and I was wet from head to toe, through three layers of raincoat and wool. We shared a salty kiss in the lee of the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. On the way back to shore the wind was in our faces and the drops of spray pelted hard as hailstones. We exchanged wild grins with a few folk as delightedly crazed as ourselves, and arrived, shivering and sloshing at the café on shore, where we tipped bootfuls of ocean at the door. I poured out my boots again on our front porch, and wrung out my socks and am now quite warm and dry and ready to do it all over again.

Here is something warm and delicious:

Gougères Savory choux-pastry cheese puffs, adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan baking sheets, lined with parchment

1 c water 3 oz (6 T) butter 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper pinch nutmeg pinch thyme (crumbled if dry, minced if fresh) 3/4 c AP flour (all-purpose) 4 eggs 2/3 c grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring water to a boil with the butter and seasonings and boil slowly until the butter has melted. Meanwhile, measure the flour and make sure the cheese is grated.

Remove from heat and immediately pour in all the flour at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for several seconds to blend thoroughly. Then beat over moderately high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until mixture leaves the sides of the pan, forms a mass, and begins to film the bottom of the pan.

Remove saucepan from heat and make a well in the centre of paste. Break one egg into the well and beat into the paste for several seconds until it has absorbed. Continue with the rest of the eggs, beating them in one by one. Beat for a moment more to be sure all is well blended and smooth. Then beat in cheese.

Drop the paste onto the parchment-lined baking sheets with a spoon (a full tablespoon, perhaps, blobs approx. 2" across) Leave blob-sizd spaces between the blobs as they will grow! Alternatively, for neater puffs use a piping bag. You can make smaller puffs: reduce baking time to 20 minutes for puffs 1" across. Option: for shiny puffs, brush with beaten egg before baking. You can also sprinkle more grated cheese on top if desired.

Bake, depending on size, for about 25-28 minutes (less for smaller puffs). The puffs are done when they have doubled in size, are golden brown, and firm and crusty to touch. Remove them from the oven and pierce the side of each puff with a sharp knife. Then set in the turned-off oven and leave the door ajar for 10 minutes (this stops them from collapsing). Eat. Or cool on a wire rack, and then eat.

under soft pewter feathers

Last night I awoke at four-thirty, confused by the glow outside the curtains. Through the windows came the steady sounds of much water arriving quickly on our roof and in our yard. Though I've been enjoying all the sunny weather we've had lately, I've also been somewhat suspicious of it. Too much fair weather and the land will be thirsty come July. This relentless, torrential rain is most welcome. I'm seated between our orange, crackling fireplace and the sodden gray scene out the window, our aged cat on my lap.  Miss Heidi Pudding Pie has gotten very elderly this winter. Once rotund, she now feels tiny and bony with old-cat fur. She spends most of her days on the couch (no change here) and we've been sitting there often, as she appears on a lap within seconds of its arrival and clings fast. A wrap baby carrier has been in our conversations lately so we could keep her with us while tending to areas of life afield from the couch. There is a quiet restfulness to rainy days like these. Certainly, coworkers were discussing napping and books, warm beverages and home. The rain is quieting but not quiet, calming but not still. The sheets of droplets flickering before the trees and the wet patter are continuous. Inside, the fire softly rumbles, causing us to occasionally mistake it for thunder, in a cozy way.

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Friday was another gull day, in a sense. We met "Gulliver" at Witty's Lagoon and brought him to the SPCA's Wild Arc, luckily not too far away. What happened is this: we brought a picnic down to the beach and had just settled against some bleached driftwood logs, bare toes in warm sand (and sand fleas hopping happily about- weird but harmless), when we saw a dog running at the gulls on a sandbar. One gull stayed put. We watched it flap awkwardly then hunker down. The confused dog sniffed at it then backed off. Strengthened by an excellent chocolate almond croissant, Jer went to see if it was okay. I half expected to see him get attacked by a seagull but moments later he was walking towards me, gently holding a juvenile gull in front of him. The bird sat quietly, surprisingly calm (or as we later learned, weak), watching us with big lash-fringed dark eyes, broken wing held slightly askew. Jer had called Wild Arc before even checking the bird out, so we had a plan. He carried Gulliver all the way out of the park, across the marshy area, through the forest and up past the waterfall where white fawn lilies were blooming. Gulliver took it all in quietly, even the concerned and curious strangers and the dark trees. In the car, I sat with Gulliver on my lap, tucked under a cloth, his/her form light and warm under soft pewter feathers. At the center, Gulliver was whisked away to be cared for. We didn't take his/her case number so we won't know how it went, but hopefully this sweet little gull is back out on the beach soon. Ironically, just the evening before, a bad day for Jer was accentuated by a gull (we think) dropping the kind of gift gulls are best at down the back of his blue shirt. This resulted in jokingly cursing gulls that evening with friends, but it's nice to see that he doesn't hold a grudge. I think we both like gulls better since having met Gulliver.  Outside our window now, the seagulls are holding court in the soggy field and flying around like it's not even raining.

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everything I hope for

The rabbits are sneaking up on the houseplant behind me. The cat is at the door, scratching first on the inside, then on the outside. The other cat is on the couch trying to convince J to nap with her. Just a normal evening at our house. The sun descended behind the sky's ragged hem of blue mountains, all streaks of pink and orange fire framed by branches yet to leaf out. This morning it did the same thing but in reverse and with a great deal more magenta.

We drove out to the lagoon to look at birds through battered binoculars. Ever-present and yet-to-be-properly -identified gulls wheeled around and hopped playfully on the beach of broken shells. Mallards, pintails and widgeons dabbled in shallow water in the late afternoon light. In a moment that was like a rush of breath, two swans flew in close over our heads and then disappeared on the horizon, their graceful bodies huge. It felt like a gift.

Recently, I had a thirty-minute wait after work before J came by with the car. I found a bench in the sun and sat quietly with myself, the sun in my eyes and its warmth on my skin. I have fallen out of the habit of daily meditation, and it felt so good to come back to myself there, the warmth and light of spring awakening me too to the present. We have gotten lazy about our evening yoga too, but small poses work their way through my body in the course of the day.

Today when I got home, I found a sunbeam. I carried blankets and pillows to where the floor in the front hallway was a crisscross of light and painted relief of many years' scratches. Spring here is so delicious this year. It is everything I hope for in a spring. I know it's early for most of the country but these are the rhythms I was raised with and I often found myself impatient with the mountains' slow melt and fickle reruns of winter.

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some days

I had a job interview this morning. It went okay, I guess, but I'm not the greatest at job interviews and I didn't feel like I presented myself as well as I could have. And then I walked around town in the rain and was hungry and a little bit mopey but didn't feel like getting food from anywhere. Almost home, I stepped in dog poo (while wearing my good shoes) in front of the house that I hate walking past because its squalor seems to be crawling across the yard towards everything. Sigh. Some days, shit just happens like this. At home I made two pieces of toast and ate them with butter and squares of dark chocolate on top like they do in France (err, like I did in France, anyway). That helped. And I made coffee, though perhaps I shouldn't have because it felt like my heart rate picked up before I was even through grinding the beans. Then came the question of cleaning the house. Why bother cleaning the house when I could relax and read and maybe paint something? But I like being in the house better when it's clean, and someone has to do it. Remember when the Cat in the Hat eats cake in the bath and leaves a cat ring all around it? This is what I think about when scrubbing our tub. One of our cats likes to hang out in the tub and lap up the small puddles left from showers, but I don't think I can blame her. There were good points too. There always are. Two Anna's hummingbirds were serenading the world when I passed by. They perched in shrubs by the water, their tiny beaks buzzing and chirping sweetly and their faces iridescent fuchsia when caught by the light. At the water's edge, clumps and drifts of ducks placidly stirred - American wigeons and mergansers - and black oystercatchers and various gulls comically prowled the shore.

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