trees

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.

swells

This morning I dragged my inner self kicking and screaming to the office. I was almost late and all but my physical self clung to everything beautiful and calm that I passed along the way. Dreams like kites burst out of me, tethered by longing. One day I will find myself spending days how I choose. However, I swam in the ocean this afternoon, which makes up for a lot. I splashed around at a place where the water is cool and clear, and angled rocks make a small tucked-away beach at the end of a winding rural road. There were big swells coming in; they lifted and lulled me as I tilted my head back to take in the wind-tossed treetops. Small blackberries at the top of the beach trail. Home, and dinner, and tea. Summer is sliding by quickly.

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evening song

There was a long-drawn sunset this evening, all golden rose with children throwing frisbees in the park, a few wisped curls of cloud in the sky. As if it had been a nice sunny day today. But I wasn't fooled. This morning it was overcast and muggy, the kind of weather that makes you feel prickly. At lunchtime it was still hovering between clearing up and starting to rain. So I cleaned the house. I must confess that I am the type of person who would rather move furniture than mop the floor. Yesterday I shoved coaxed the fridge across the kitchen, and immediately vowed to never let it return. Now, instead of looming mismatched beside the stove and blocking two entryways, it fills the weird corner. This afternoon I stepped into the garden. We have doors that autolock. Most of the time I remember this, and stuff a key in my pocket or prop the door. I shut the door behind me. Oh. I spent the next three hours weeding. I could have gone over to my landlord's house for help, but stubborn pride joined forces with the fact that I'd been wanting to be out in the garden all day, but busy house tasks had kept me from it. And the weeds were really bad. Our salad greens, though gaining height, were dwarfed by volunteer thistles. I have to say it was a peaceful way to spend the afternoon/evening. At times, the only sounds besides my internal chatter were the wind strumming conifer needles and the robins' morning and evening song that transports the sun. Once, a nuthatch scritching bark, crows laughing. The neighbors and their children and their dogs. At the time I had stepped into the garden, I was thinking of changing into shorts and a tank top. By the time Jeremy came home and found me I had swatted a mosquito and was shivering a little.

A year ago at this time, I was up in northern Alberta for work. There was still snow on the ground when I arrived, and then the boreal forest set about showing me how it does spring. Extravagantly, teemingly, gloriously. I wandered around, aspen-struck (swooning over the sea of trunks of my favorite tree to paint), with my plant and bird ID books in hand. Magpies lived in my backyard. Seven of them, and they were loud and playful and curious. Here are some photos from then and there...

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a new approach

Sometimes I long to be a bird. Not so much for flight even, but the intimate knowing of trees. For the spaces between branches to open up to me and for my view of  the world to be framed with fragrant fir fronds. Today is a beautiful sunny day. The moon is full, though out of sight now, and it feels lucky. I'm about to try a new approach in freeing myself from my current job and its shitty hours: praying to the universe for a windfall. Frankly it seems more fruitful and pleasing than a desperate hunt.

We awoke in our new tiny bedroom to so much light. And cats miaowling (one cat, anyway- those who've met her know which one). Yesterday morning I accidentally opened a jar of plum chutney for Jer's toast instead of the lovely jam we were expecting. Today he left without breakfast. Hmmm.

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