onions

bright sunshine

Today: Coombs Market in the sunshine with my mum and my husband. Bright colours, strings of light, things. Beautiful and wonderful, but also kind of ridiculous. This is a place steeped in childhood memories of goats on the roof, ice cream cones and shopping for animal stamps in the special rubber stamp store. The goats are still there, along with more ice cream than ever, but the stamp store is sadly gone. It wasn't how it used to be, but then- things don't need to stay the same. It was still a fun way to pass an afternoon. Today also, a wren and a nuthatch in the garden.

I was tired when we got home, and feeling under the weather (is that possible in this gorgeous weather?). Thus, this simple soup came about, an excellent and speedy false onion soup. It involved hot water left in the kettle from when I made tea, a spoonful of mugi (barley) miso, and a larger spoonful of caramelized onions. This got stirred together and covered in a light snow of grated Parmesan and few turns of cracked black pepper. I also sprinkled it with toasted sunflower seeds because they were sitting on the counter in front of me, but a better choice would probably have been homemade croutons.

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because: caramelized onions

I felt productive this weekend, mainly because I roasted more tomatoes and had the inspired plan to caramelize onions in the oven at the same time. It worked brilliantly, beautifully. I know this because I couldn't stop eating them this morning. They are velvety, jammy, savory and sweet. We planted onions this spring and ended up with a lot of them come harvest time. I'm pretty happy about this. However, there were a few that didn't cure well that had begun to go a bit mushy. I decided that since I had the oven on at 275° for the next five hours anyway, I may as well put some onions in. I sliced the good parts of five or so of such onions thickly and tossed them with a drizzle of olive oil in a pyrex dish. Nothing makes me tear up like these homegrown onions (not quite true, but they are certainly tear inducing). I think I stirred them twice over the course of the evening, and by the end of the cooking time they were very soft and lightly browned. I turned off the oven and left them to stew overnight. In the morning they were perfect. I added a touch of thyme-infused sea salt, and ended up snacking on a few spoonfuls before breakfast.

Because I wanted to eat more caramelized onions and because I was pretty hungry, I concocted a salad which made use of a few generous forkfuls.

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September Salad with beets, caramelized onions and pecans

I didn't measure anything because I wasn't planning on writing about it, but it turned out so good that you will have to accept my approximations until I make it again, and adjust it to taste. I thought about dressing the salad, but I'm glad that I didn't because the oil from the onions coated everything nicely.

⋅ ~ 4 leaves kale, washed, stemmed, kneaded til bright green and cut into ribbons ⋅ several handfuls diced cooked beets (I used cold beets but warm would probably be lovely as well) ⋅ several forkfuls caramelized onion (and I do mean full) ⋅ soft cheese, crumbled (I used fromage frais, but a creamy feta would also be nice, such as Doric Macedonian Feta - Elise I silently thank you every time I find myself in possession of a bucket of the stuff) ⋅ a smallish handful of pecans, hand crushed and toasted over medium heat = Assemble and eat.

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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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a full month free from long scheduled days; more sky showing between tree branches

Sunwashed streets are whispering summer. The air outside is delicious today. A hint of a breeze lingers in high branches moving past sunning crows and rusty oak leaves. These and the glossy acorns on the ground remind me that it's November. The snowline is so close I could hike to it from here, and touch the bluish trees in their finely chiseled white coats. Inside, there are cats and coffee. Projects begun and projects that are but shapes in my head and scribbled notes.

I have neglected to write for so many reasons. Staying up late and waking tired, then sleeping more. Morning walks and the distraction of a good book (The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila). A lack of new studio endeavors that sound thrilling to the casual ear. I have been sewing, some. Ironing, lots. Printing a vivid orange swath of cotton from my onion skin dyepot and a lustrous straw coloured linen cloth that went into the onion skins after. I am experimenting with printing small line drawings - a dabbling in toiles that I have long considered, and am now working to incorperate into my usual freehand floral motifs. The walnut hulls are still lurking conspicuously in the kitchen. Each morning I strain out the dark liquid and add more water from my leftover onion skin bath, and heat the acrid sludge once more. I will keep at this until all the colour has been extracted or until I fill my largest dye vat. Both in efforts to increase the richness of colour and to hopefully overpower the strong walnut hull odor, I'm adding coffee grounds to the pot.

A full month free from long scheduled days has led to an interesting, though perhaps not surprising restructuring of my days. It turns out I'm useless in the morning at anything that disallows puttering. Afternoon and early evening are strong studio hours. A need for dinner and all things related inserts itself next, then the hours that follow tend to be productive and focused, but not always spent in the studio. Sometimes the household requires cookies, like the chocolate peppermint ones, but with orange extract instead of the mint. All of a sudden, the clock insists that it is very late and bed is essential if I really think I can wake up at seven thirty or eight. It's a rough life, arting full time. I'm going to miss it.

A few small truths: I wipe my fingers on my apron when I'm printing. I don't like to wear gloves. Back in school, I would come home splotched blue and yellow and red all the way up to my elbows. My favorite squeegee is a small plastic dough scraper. I don't even own a t-square and haven't done a registered repeat since the day I learned how. Sometimes I don't remember how I made the colours I get because I add things after I write it down. It is an intuitive process, this printing of mine.

We have had the pleasure, this November, of experiencing nearly every kind of weather. There have been rainy days, which are good for sewing, and glorious warm days where shortsleeves are an entirely reasonable wardrobe option, then some exciting wind that kept us up one night and blew leaves into a thicker carpet on the sidewalks and left more sky showing between tree branches. On Sunday morning, we woke up to snow falling thickly. (This required a bike ride down a slippery, steepish trail, squealing disc brakes cutting into the blanket of quiet in the forest.)

My studio month is wrapping up yet I feel like I've just begun the process of making art in a much more real sense. This will continue.

Onion skins, a walk in the rain, printing

It's pouring rain outside. Still. Inside, my house smells like onions. I'm cooking up onion skins for a dye bath.

Yesterday, a particularly nasty cold caught up with me, and so I rearranged the living room furniture, and went for a walk in the mist between torrential downpours.  Inspired by the onion skins and the heap of onions my small garden produced, I sauteed onions for curried squash soup, then sauteed more onions for burritos. I have a lot of onions, which is great because I'm really excited about the colour the onion skins are producing. It's a rich ruby red right now and I'm curious to see what will happen to the cotton that I'm planning on putting in there. To my local friends, if you happen to feel like saving onion skins for me that would be most delightful.

After a long sleep and many spoonfuls of oil of oregano hidden in honey, I am feeling much better today. This afternoon brought a good rain walk. Perhaps it comes of a childhood spent on Vancouver Island; I find walks in the pouring rain invigorating, and no, I don't carry an umbrella.

Today, too, I began printing. This is the part of the process I most enjoy and I'm looking forward to spending the rest of the week with a squeegee in hand.