tea

October, I love you

This is the best. I'm reclining on the couch next to our jubilantly flowering begonia tree (?) with a near-bottomless mug of tea and the late afternoon light is all golden and violet playing on the buildings down the street and illuminating the intense yellow of the birch leaves overhead. The rabbits are quietly nibbling hay, the husband is puttering in his workshop, and the cat is out of sight but almost certainly lounging on the doorstep like she owns this end of the neighbourhood.

I've had some time off, which may account for this good mood and this first blog post in five months (!). I suppose I could say we've been doing exciting things and visiting everyone we miss in the daily grind of working life. But mostly that wouldn't be true. It is such a relief to finally have time for ourselves. Things like Enough Sleep, baking, painting, cooking real food... these have been enough, so much enough that I want to wallow in them and never go back to the hectic busy life. It is so good to see the light move across the house and garden at different times of day. To mostly not wear a bra. To stay up until midnight painting ten paintings at once and listening to an audiobook because I squeezed too much paint onto the palate and because I could.

I don't have a recipe today, only a heartfelt recommendation of the quiet life, of stepping back and slowing down, of spending a day pulling weeds and listening to birdsong, and of walking in the rain under dripping trees and coming home to make chai and chilli and biscuits, or whatever is easy and fulfilling. Also, I get awkward about blogging when I let too much time elapse between posts, and had meant to write something quite different but here we are and it's good to be back.

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. 

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.

all things considered

Well, I'm without a computer for a little while. My laptop had a flash encounter with a mug of hot peppermint-nettle tea and a rambunctious silver rabbit, which, all things considered, is not a bad way to go. Hopefully it's just the keyboard that's been affected and it'll be geeked back into working order over the next few days. I dug out my ancient MacBook G4 the night of the incident, but the internet seems to have left it in the dust.