snow

shifting skies

You might think, from the title, that this post is about Canadian politics and the recent election. I am, along with most of the country, immensely relieved by the election results. However, I am better off writing about the weather. All I really want to eat for supper at this time of year is roasted vegetables topped with poached eggs. If you offered me lasagna or quiche, say, I would never turn it down, but a colourful heap of oven-velvety fall vegetables is pretty undeniably glorious. I started to write that my husband would disagree, but he has been roasting broccoli, tofu and potatoes lately so I will eat my words.

To further my roasted vegetable quest, and revel in it for days at a time, I concocted a sort of "October bowl", so named for its warm bright colours: roasted winter squash, roasted beets, and roasted garlic topped generously with grated Balderson cheddar, soft-poached eggs, sea salt and a fair amount of pepper. I may also have tipped some Little Creek Dressing into my bowl- I'm on a bit of a kick with it lately. If you've never tried it, it combines oil, lemon juice, tamari, raspberries, vinegar, nutritional yeast, garlic, herbs and salt in magical proportions for a very delicious dressing. Also on the subject of vegetables, however vaguely, we gave the rabbits a big old zucchini yesterday evening and there is not much left of it. They've been gnawing it with great vigor and following its diminishing form around the room. It's impressive what these soft-eyed creatures can do to a gourd, and highly entertaining, for us and them.

It's necessary to talk briefly of the weather; I was near convinced it would start snowing this morning. There was a fog over the city and it was unusually cold. It felt like a late October day in the mountains, where it just might start snowing. And then I reminded myself I'm in Victoria. It rarely snows in December here. Last year, I left Nelson just before the snow started to fall. I do miss the beauty and wonder of those first snows of the season. Island life, Island life, Island life. We have had some spectacular skies lately, liquidamber* light and painted clouds reflected on the ocean, even a sundog rainbow one afternoon.

(* thank you Elise, xo)

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sound in the forest

One of my favorite things about my days off is having real breakfasts. I like to soak 1/3 cup steel cut oats in 1/3 cup water and a spoonful of yogurt overnight then cook it in 1/3 cup water the next morning. And I like to make coffee. Very much. Lately before work I've just been making toast to bring with me and most of it ends up quite cold and chewy before I get to it. Waking up even earlier, even for something as glorious as breakfast is so not happening though. Good thing I've been applying for work hither and thither these past few days. Hopefully something better will come up soon. I've been thinking about things I could do that would actually be fulfilling, and while I haven't seen them in the job postings yet I still have hope. Illustrating children's books would be delightful. Reading books and finding every typo and spelling mistake and forming opinions would be right up my alley as well. Something creative, please... I went for a walk near MacKenzie Bight in the highlands with my brother this afternoon. It rained on the way there, but under the canopy the trees were only dripping. I sometimes miss the chilly, crystalline magic of the forests in the Kootenays under their winter snow. There, silence reigns except the occasional clumps of snow falling. The sun comes in sideways and catches the rough snow crystals, the whole forest peaceful and glittering. Here, the thought of winter seems far. The forest is full of sounds. First, the pitter-pat of rain on leaves, then gurgling and rushing as we neared a small rivulet. The gurgles faded down the path behind us and a few steps later new burbles announced the next stream. In one spot, various streams had converged and taken over the paths. This is where we turned around. The roar of the waterfall almost masked the sound of soft raindrops on the small pool at the top of the falls. Over it all, but woven into the louder stream sounds and only evident where the raindrops, the breeze and the leaves were the only backdrop, the clomping of our wet boots. Modern humans are so inelegant in the forest.

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fresh tracks

066 Sunday morning when I got up, there were fresh little cat tracks in the new snow outside our door. Higher up the driveway, and on the bank, deer with their ungulate toes have left haphazard, crisscrossing prints. The day's snowfall was lovely, light and constant. We snowshoed up a ridge through beautiful snow ghosted trees and then snowboarded down through deep, soft powder. It was thrilling, except that I'm not very good at snowboarding yet, and when I fell in the powder, it was hard to get up. Needless to say, the whole experience was over much too soon. I'll be back for more powder surfing as soon as possible.

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The new snow really freshens up the neighborhood. Everything looks prettier iced in white, and the long dripping icicles and frozen waterfalls are exquisite. In keeping with the new year and the societal push that comes with it, I shall attempt to refresh this little blog. Somewhere along the busy and indulgently relaxing course of December, the act of writing fell by the wayside. The revival comes with an intention- several actually- because it is after all January. First, to write as often as feels good, and second, to remember that this is primarily an art blog, so if I haven't got any new crafting to talk about, then it's probably time to get into the studio, not just take pictures of whatever delicious distraction the kitchen may hold.

In keeping with the aforementioned course of December, nothing in particular came to life in the studio. The studio itself, however, did. I am now settled into the biggest, brightest, prettiest, coziest and best organized studio of my wee career. There will certainly be good things coming out of this.

Our cats have been predicting our departure. They always seem to run out of kibble right before we go away somewhere. Sure enough, just as the bag is dwindling, we have a trip to the coast coming up.

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On cold days and sourdough

Hello winter, I like your chickadees and tiny snowflakes. The trees are all dark criss-crossing lines now, as though all colour was whisked away in the night.

Friday seemed like the sort of day for falling asleep on the couch with a pile of books. I will admit to feeling a little trapped by snow falling on slippery sidewalks.

A modest, buttery proposal: let's have a cookie party. Gingersnaps, tassies, shortbread... get in touch with me if you want to help bake and put away much more than I can consume and make my house smell good.

Now let's talk art vs. craft. While it may seem like an age old debate, I believe it was, like so much today that is concerning, propelled by the industrial revolution. The shift from individual craftspeople making our every day objects to a mechanized, cheapened process not only gave us more uniformity and sometimes lower quality products, but created a shadow that still looms over craft today. We expect our utilitarian goods to be cheap, because after all, we can get them cheap. Art on the other hand, is just art for art's sake so it's okay if it's expensive. I agree that artists should get paid for what they do, but this vast canyon of separation between art for the wall and art that say lives in your kitchen and gets used every day (craft), that's just silly. Thanks.

This week I learned something new about sewing machine needles. Maybe everyone already knows, but I guess it didn't seem important to me until my machine started skipping stitches like crazy. There are three main types of needles: sharp, universal and ball-point, and then all the specialty needles. Sharp is designed for woven fabric and is particularly good for straight lines. Ball-point is for knit fabrics and universal is a combination of sharp and ball-point that will work on both knit and woven but not as ideally as sharp or ball-point. I've been sewing a lot of straight lines on woven fabric using universal needles; it's time to switch to sharp needles.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: does anyone, anyone at all in the Kootenay area want some rye sourdough starter? It's very nice; I started it myself last summer but can't quite keep up with it. Most recently, some of it went into a 66% sourdough rye bread with caraway, that very sadly got overbaked by about 15 minutes. The bread is good, but requires a strong hand with the bread knife. Next time I will check on it sooner... In the meantime, stollen with homemade marzipan should redeem the sourdough and my baking reputation quite nicely.

Outside on Saturday, the snow was melting off the roof in great slumps and dripping wildly in a way that could make spectacular icicles. The sun was shining in full force after illuminating pockets of snowy mountain, trees and glacier surrounded by heavy mist in the morning. I've been hoping for a clear, cold snowy day to photograph my newest teatowls on the clothesline before we move. Today could be such a day; it is beautiful out. Yes, we're moving in December and there are collections of empty boxes scattered around the house. I've agreed to try an alternative packing technique this time round, of packing all the important stuff first and sorting through what's left, culling. We have a few weeks crossover in both our houses so we can afford to do this, but the important things are still in use and I really can't bring myself to put anything in a box just yet. Hopefully I'll come around later this afternoon and at least pack the wineglasses and some dishes.

Yesterday morning, my boyfriend walked in the door with a KitchenAid mixer! Love, love, love him! Oooh there will be a lot of baking happening for him to sample.

66% Sourdough Rye

adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman's book "Bread"

Plan on this bread happening the day after you begin...

First, the starter (this requires a ripe sour)

3 1/2 cups (12.8 oz) medium rye flour (I used whole rye flour)

1 1/4 cups (10.2 oz) water

2 tbsp (0.6 oz) mature sourdough culture

Mix these and cover. Let sit to ripen for 14 to 16 hours at room temperature or 70° F. It will be a stiff dough. If you need to add more water, only add enough to hold it all together.

Then, the final dough

1 1/8 cups (8.3 oz) medium rye flour (again, I used whole rye flour)

2 1/2 cups (10.9 oz) high-gluten flour (I used white spelt, but certainly a bread flour helps with volume and structure)

1 3/4 cups (13.8 oz) water (not cold, maybe a coolish lukewarm, warmer if your house or your flour is cold)

1 tbsp (0.6 oz) salt

1 tsp (o.1 oz) instant dry yeast (this is different and superior to the little packets of active dry yeast, and contains about 2/3 more live cells so if you're using active dry then you'll want to use up to 3 times more and do that warm water thing. The instant can be added directly.)

1 lb 7 oz sourdough (all of above minus 2 tbsp)  (The 2 tbsp is for your ongoing sourdough culture to keep it going, though if you've already fed it then I think it's optional.)

Mix with a dough hook or knead... Maybe 2 1/2 minutes on 1st speed and 4-5 minutes on 2nd? I kneaded it by hand for at least ten minutes. When the dough is tugged, you should be able to feel a bit of gluten strength from the white flour, but the overall dough strength will not be much.

Cover, possibly in a clean, oiled bowl and let rest for 30 to 45 minutes.

Divide and shape into 2 loaves, then cover these and let ferment 50 to 60 minutes at 80° F.

Bake at 460°F for 15 minutes with normal steam (can be created by pouring cold water onto a hot pan on bottom rack, and/or mist the walls of the oven), then lower the oven temp. to 440°F (removing the steam pan at this point) and bake 30 to 40 minutes more.

Ideally, the baked bread should rest for up to 24 hours before slicing to improve its eating quality. (Sourdough rye bread is one of those things that, to a point, improves with time.)