February 29

I love that today is a leap day- it seems like a special pocket of time.

Outside, the cheery trills of robins are balancing the soft dreariness of grey sky on the verge of rain. This afternoon, the sun shone and lit the pink cherry blossom and warmed the rug. In the morning, as on all mornings here, sea gulls dotted the field like sheep.

This past week there were some glorious spring storms, erratic wind/rain/sun and all colours in the sky. I dug out my paints. I finally bought an umbrella. Days were segmented by cappucinos, africanos, earl grey and herbal teas. Our rabbits are molting winter down. The daffodils are nodding bright heads.

I hurt my back by lifting a bin incorrectly and have spent the past few days feeling like a century has been tacked on to my years. It's easing up now and I am so glad. (That icy-hot stuff is so weird!) How easy it is to take health for granted.

I'm including the recipe for what I wish I was making right now. I like to make and freeze a batch of these cookies to have on hand - a gift to our future selves.

Chocolate Apricot Pecan Cookies Adapted from Leslie Mackie's Macrina Cookbook. The original recipe does not call for pecans, so feel free to leave them out. 

In a medium large bowl, stir together with a whisk then set aside: 1 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour 1 c all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 tsp finely ground espresso beans

In a medium small bowl or in a KitchenAid mixer, cream until light and fluffy: 1 c butter, softened 1 c good raw/brown sugar such as panela-rapadura

Add eggs to creamed butter and sugar one at a time, mixing well, adding vanilla with second egg: 2 eggs, room temperature 2 tsp vanilla

Add dry ingredients and stir to mix until flour is just incorporated. Then stir in: 3/4 cup dried unsulphured apricots, chopped 3/4 cup pecans, toasted and cooled, roughly crushed by hand 8-9 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Let dough rest in the fridge for at least an hour before scooping and baking cookies. Or scoop then freeze dough to later thaw and bake whenever you need a few cookies! Makes about 16 cookies. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. 

the season so far

The season so far has been like every other coastal February- the brightest, best days since summer, bookended by days of soft, sleepy grey rain. I love it.

Most notable is the light lingering towards evening, and that I've left my sweater at home every morning this week and haven't missed it.

While dinners lately have tended towards dull, parsnips have been the shining stars of several meals, as have broccoli, cabbage and sambal olek. We found last year's  rhubarb in the freezer and had it sauced with pancakes. Then there was chocolate cheesecake for my dad's birthday...

Chocolate Marble Cheesecake Makes one 9" cake. My mother's recipe- I'm not sure where she got it from.

Crust 1/4 c butter, softened 2 tbsp sugar 1/2 tsp vanilla 1/2 c flour

Preheat oven to 400º F. In large mixing bowl, beat butter till soft. Gradually add sugar, beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and stir in flour. With floured fingertips, press dough evenly in bottom of ungreased 9" springform pan. Bake until golden, 10-12 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.

Cheesecake 1 recipe cheesecake crust 3/4 c sugar 2 tbsp flour 1/8 tsp salt 3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, at room temperature 2 eggs, at room temp. 1 c heavy whipping cream (unwhipped) 3 oz bittersweet baking chocolate, melted

Make crust. Preheat oven to 375º F. In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour and salt; mix well. Add cream cheese. With mixer at medium speed, beat until smooth and well blended. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla;  beat just until well blended (scrape down bowl to incorporate and prevent any lumps). Set aside 2 c filling. Pour remaining filling on top of crust. Stir chocolate into reserved filling until well combined. Drop chocolate mixture by tablespoonfuls into cream cheese filling, forming 6 "puddles". Swirl filling with a knife 2 or 3 times for a marbled effect. Bake 55 minutes (centre will be slightly soft). Immediately run spatula around edge of cake to loosen from pan (this helps prevent cracking). Cool on wire rack 1 hr, then cover and chill at least 4-5 hrs before cutting.


boring but true

It's easy enough to look back on the past few months as such a busy, hectic time filled with socializing and indulgence. In reality though, while we have been having some delightful visits and while I did eat most of our share of orange-zest Florentine-roca in the very recent past, we've mostly been lounging our way through winter, drinking tea on the couch with the rabbits and listening to the Spilled Milk podcast (which I'm currently addicted to, along with the orange Florentines).

I meant to write on the morning after my last post that winter's edge had softened overnight and I noticed the green shoots of spring bulbs on my walk to the bakery. I even lingered on the porch in short sleeves and left the front door open for the length of a sunbeam to let the mild air freshen the house. I have since seen snowdrops (!) in veritable drifts and the first yellow crocuses are almost open. I've also sighted one of each of the following in flower: Oregon grape, currant, and cherry. Most of the rain lately has had a springlike feel to it -warmer, milder, more spontaneous and moody.

I'm going to resist the urge to itemize all the glories of the past month, but for memory's sake must mention a magical weekend in Vancouver, some good little invigorating runs in light drizzle along the water, a magnificent bike ride and a homey, crafty day complete with garden food and a very good friend.


the rain

If all I ask for in a day is that it be better than the day before then today has been a full on success. We went for a walk on a beach in Deep Cove, all fragments of white shells, and grey sand with blue mussels, and smooth black basalt semi-coated in grippy ivory barnacles and brown bladderwrack. The ocean was clear and inviting looking; I am so eager for summer swims. Along the shoreline, towering Douglas-fir and arbutus, blue skies above and warm sun on our backs. Clams squirted as we walked, a waterfront fountain display that has never failed to amuse me. Also, yesterday was pretty terrible. In a way it was quite fitting that my post last night disappeared. I had spent all night and the next morning preparing for and worrying about a job interview. The interview itself was not enjoyable, but in some ways easier than expected - or at least it all went a lot faster than I was anticipating. Shaken from the interview and slightly baffled at being asked to answer math equations that no person in an office workplace in this century would not have access to a calculator for, I frustratingly completely misunderstood the wording on the multiple choice questions and though I wrote the correct answers beside the questions, didn't end up circling anything because nothing matched up right. Back at home, my favorite new sundresses appeared oddly tiny when I hung them up to dry. I tried one on out of a dreadful curiosity; I am now converted to the act of reading garment labels before casually tossing them into the laundry. I then sat for some time diligently stretching out the fabric and blocking it over my knees, all of which had zero effect on the now butt-length dresses. Until- a tearing sound that caused me to fling the dress aside. I now had tiny dresses, one with a long rip across the skirt.

The rain came overnight, its soft patter emanating through our old windows. Outside, our garden bed turned to mud and the cherry blossoms looked wasted and heavy. Some cold, rainy days are cozy inside, and others great for invigorating outdoor adventures. Some are just cold and rainy.

Later in the evening, with my face pressed between the couch cushion and Jer's arm, I listened to sirens wailing through the city streets and thought: at least we're safe. We're here and we're safe and these really are small problems, almost nothing at all of importance. And I am so lucky to be with such a supportive man.

As part of our cheer-up campaign (ongoing throughout the day- it worked until the next thing went wrong) we did an impromptu pastry tour, hitting up Fry's, Fol Épi and Crust for buttery goodness. We stocked up on seeds for our garden and even replaced the favorite dresses.

Seven loves her strawberry medicine. She follows Jer when she smells it and laps it up happily. Zephyr is very jealous. She has been nipping me and charging around and sulking in the kitchen. We're going to try to get her some placebo strawberry paste so she feels special too.

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