things missed

I keep thinking of things that I meant to write about after I’ve posted for the day. Yesterday I forgot to mention that I heated up marmalade without the rind-y bits as a substitute for apricot glaze, to brush over the tarts when they come out of the oven, and I toasted sliced almonds to scatter on top.

How, moving back to Victoria we psyched ourselves up for days or even weeks of rain and it has been unexpectedly sunny.

When I was lying in bed on Thursday morning, I kept drifting off and I dreamt of kitchens, a car I couldn’t start, and catching then releasing broken butterflies.

Yesterday was J’s birthday and I wasn’t at all ready for it. I got out of bed early and made him a mouse card, and there was a trip to Lee Valley and the frangipane tarts, but I would have liked to have made it more special. When it’s my birthday he lavishes me with gifts and sweet plans.

At work, even though I feel I’m trying no more or less than before, it would seem my efforts are paying off; I was told that I’m on track. I got off work early this afternoon, but had to wait for J and the car to come at my usual time. I sat and ate a small and excellent rejected quiche and part of a strawberry rhubarb galette from work. There was a bunch of tulips that I wanted to buy across the street, but I had just enough change for cilantro for the rabbits.

We have a second set of keys for the car now, so now I also have a key. It feels symbolic for now being able to drive it and capably drive standard.

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frangipane and a golden-crowned bird

This morning we left the house when the sunrise still lingered on the horizon and frost lay thick on the ground. Fueled by frangipane tarts and coffee, we met J’s aunt with our binoculars for a birthday birding walk around Swan Lake. In the chilly morning air we first saw robins, then delicate blurs in the forest that were hummingbirds, all shifting iridescence in the early light. Then ducks, many ducks bobbing around in their charming way – mostly mallards but also scaups, a ring-necked duck and a few coots. Some red-winged blackbirds trilled in the surrounding hawthorns and cottonwoods and two herons quietly lurked at the water’s edge. Back in the forest among sunlit Douglas-fir, a flock of beautiful golden-crowned kinglets flitted about, too small and quick (for me) to photograph but the best of all to see.

The rest of the morning and afternoon were filled with all kinds of short errands and adventures. We learned not to look for an open sushi place for a 3 pm lunch in Victoria. I found exactly the simple, pretty wedding dress I had in mind but it’s $2,200… which is approximately our entire wedding budget. When the sun set in a wash of yellow sky and magenta and cobalt-streaked cloud, we were buying hay in Oak Bay. I then learned I don’t like bone-in chicken stew at Baan Thai, a very sad discovery.

Because it’s bedtime and it was a busy day this won’t be a proper foodie post about frangipane. Good thing there’s the internet to fill in the gaps for me.

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Here is what I used:

FRANGIPANE TARTS, AN OVERVIEW

1 recipe pate sucree (I brought home scrap from work- will post a recipe soon though)

8 oz (1 cup) butter

8 oz almonds (I used whole, raw, organic and unpasteurized)

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

zest of an orange

1/2 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

canned (jarred) tart cherries (but you could use sliced poached pears, frozen raspberries, cranberries or blueberries etc…)

chocolate chunks

Whir almonds in food processor until conrmeal-like in texture. Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time. Mix in zest and extracts. Stir in almond meal. Chill for an hour or so.

Roll out the pate sucree and put it in tart rings or whatever you have that will work. Fill it 1/3 to 1/2 full with frangipane. Decorate the top with fruit (and chocolate, if desired- I forgot the chocolate until mid-bake and then tucked little chunks in). Bake in a 350° convection oven (or similar) until the sides of the pastry are brown and the frangipane feels somewhat firm. (I have never timed it at work or at home but will try to get a sense of how long it takes next time. Basically you don’t want the frang. to be raw in the middle, but it will depend on how big of tarts you are making.)

reining it in

Today has been a day of catching up. I lay in bed late, head aching too much to want to move. White sunlight streamed through white curtains and bounced off white walls and eventually the bright flaunts of a nice day got me to roll over and put my feet on the floor.

When I work the early shift, the house goes a bit feral. I spent the afternoon reining it in.

I meant to be handing out resumes this afternoon but I needed the whole day to catch up at home. I find peace of mind much easier to find when I can clearly see the floor and counters. My horoscope this morning hinted at tension this evening regarding not accomplishing everything I set out to do. I got the tension out of the way early by being hyper defensive about the resumes at lunch with J. We went for a sunset walk along the breakwater later, and I drove and it went okay, and frangipane tarts happened this evening but I’ll save those for tomorrow.

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a sleepy day; nothing much to say

The light this afternoon reminded me of springtime in the Selkirk mountains, the bare trees and dry pavement washed out in cool brightness.

I walked home from town in a t-shirt; the air was mild and pleasant.

Work today was redeeming, for both it and I. It helped that today was a tart shift, and began at a somewhat more palatable hour. I like baking the tarts and pastries, and today I somehow did so much more quickly than usual, on pace even with what is expected. If only I could keep the tart days and ditch the early muffin shifts. The early mornings leave me feeling battered. I spent the late afternoon and early evening cocooned in blankets on my bed, somewhere between wakefulness and sleep.

The rabbits are getting so comfortable out in the house. Seven hops in circles around me on the blanket and Zephyr roams, occasionally coming back for little nudges.

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good things prevail

The sun came out during my walk home today. Blue sky appeared and gulls wheeled across it like slices of cloud. From an ornate old upstairs window came the sound of someone practicing a clarinet. What looked like a sale price of $29.99 turned into $10.99 when I got to the till. J picked me up along the way and we went and bought two pairs of awesome old binoculars for ten dollars.

I opted to walk the 7.7 km home rather than spend money on the bus or face stalling downtown in traffic again. I got my patient, wonderful partner out of bed by 4:30 this morning so he could come to work with me and bring the car home. Between his calming presence and the lack of traffic at this predawn hour, the drive went perfectly.

It’s so nice when good things prevail. This morning around five, my body did not appreciate being at work. Bed is at its finest between one and six in the morning, and I think my subconscious may have been trying to help me out by getting my body to play sick. Suddenly nausea, a sore back, brain will not compute… but I’m the only one there at that hour and the baking must get done somehow so it isn’t especially useful. It’s also hard to tell how one ought to be feeling at that hour after another restless night of sleep (I don’t sleep well anticipating that early alarm). When I left work, the people I walked past looked like versions of my own worn-out state – anxious, drawn faces and tired eyes. I tried to smile at them. On boulevards and in gardens beside the sidewalk, green shoots coming up already. And then, the arrival of the aforementioned sun…

I’ve been putting out feelers for new work in Victoria, and am cultivating my resume, hope, and some intro emails.

Right now the rabbits are on a blanket in the living room with me. Seven, my delicate black bunny who named herself by jumping on J’s keyboard and googling “7”, has been all over my computer. She somehow enabled code in this post, which I turned off because I haven’t learned it, and here is what else she had to say:

=-+.

-*/9

For all I know, she might be a very mathematically advanced rabbit. Now Zephyr is skittering around the kitchen, her furred feet sliding out on the old linoleum. The dishes are taking over in there, but I feel okay getting to them later, knowing that I looked at job postings and tweaked my resume this afternoon. Tomorrow is my Friday, then there will be a clean house and birthday celebrations for J. Things are looking up.

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the direction the ocean is nearest

Zephyr the thirteen-pound silver rabbit has been rattling her fence this week. She lifts it with her strong neck and yanks forward and back, heaving the bunny corral so it overlaps the hall. For added effect, she works loose the food bowl and flings it in the air. We’ve been letting the rabbits run amok (well almost- I did stop her eating a houseplant) around the house in the evenings, and this taste of freedom has got her fuzzy feet eager for more hallway leaps and exploring.

This morning I glanced up from my workbench towards the daylight and saw a wall of white mist where the street normally runs. The mist rolled in across the fields towards my house last night too, advancing from the direction the ocean is nearest. From my bed I could feel it surround the house like a blanket. The mild air glowed softly, tiny particles of water reflecting engulfed streetlights and house windows.

I’m still unraveling my nerves from my first stick-shift solo drive through downtown afternoon traffic. I stalled more times than all my previous stalls together, and each intersection left me a little shakier. For the record, I didn’t cry or get angry, just muttered curses and apologies to our good, forgiving little car. Some kindness of the car gods got me home, and I am -or like to think I am- gathering my courage for the next drive.

Today I heard about an island far north of here where when the raspberries are ripe the people on the island celebrated raspberries for five days by going from huge garden patch to huge garden patch, picking the ripe red drupelets, and then they make raspberry pies and raspberry pasta and drink last year’s raspberry wine. “Where is this place?” I asked, thinking it sounded like some kind of utopia. “Oh, it doesn’t show up on the map”. Later in life I will sail each island from Haida Gwaii to Alaska in search of teeming gardens and basketfuls of raspberries.

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momentum

We met our next-door neighbors last night, first through an open kitchen window and then coming around the fence in the dark with a ladder. They had heard us outside under the big pine behind our house, coaxing, planning, not-quite panicking, and on the phone with J’s parents- woken from bed and an hour away. We’ve had a raccoon around our house lately, and our cat (the one that goes outdoors) hadn’t been at the door asking to be let in, then out, then in, and back out again for a few hours. With an owner’s intuition, J had gone around the house with a flashlight and, soon led by piteous meows, came upon beloved Michette’s eyeshine, twenty-five feet up, on the lowest branch of the big pine. He came back into the house where I was trying to sleep, because of course I work early in the morning, to get me to hold the flashlight so he could climb onto the roof. Outside, the air was mild and softly misting. A faint drizzle fell around the tree and on the roof, and our breath rose in wisps and puffs of steam. Not safe. There was no way I was letting this happen. I love this cat but I love my man more. Her vantage point was about ten feet up from the roof and two feet over, entirely doable for this semi-wild beast we had just watched a Nature of Things documentary about. The ladder he had found in our back shed was too short to get up to our somewhat rickety extension roof. We tried to lean a huge and heavy beam up against the tree but the angle was too sharp so down it went with a thump. J’s parents had just turned down his plan to drive out and bring their ladder in their van when our lovely neighbors came on the scene. Minutes later, J was climbing down the long ladder with a squirming, embarrassed little striped cat under his arm while we introduced ourselves. Our other cat, who no longer goes outside much, used to run up trees and get down them almost as quickly. She chased squirrels and seemed to be part squirrel herself. Michette, while an intrepid creature on the ground, is not a tree cat. She could have jumped but she had her limit to what she would try and was just too scared.

I’m learning to drive standard right now. When I’m in the passenger seat, I watch my partner’s feet and ask questions about the shifts in scenarios we encounter on our way home. A lot seems to come down to momentum, especially uphill starts and puttering or coasting along in traffic.

Momentum is happening in other places too. This is my fourth day back writing on this blog, and it keeps getting easier to begin. I’m welcoming the return of a daily practice. My friend Rachel got me writing again, though she doesn’t know it. Her beautiful honest words inspired me to want to speak with my voice. When I read her blog I silently wish her abundance and all good blessings. I admire her strength in transmuting so many challenges into such engaging and beautiful writings. I imagine a circle of readers across the rock and water of North America, moved and wishing well.

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small

Last night I hid in a box, because real life doesn’t happen when you’re in a box, right? Everything can just keep spinning away outside but inside is separated by a near-Narnian veil of what remains of childhood belief. It was a big moving box that belongs to my house rabbits – I had gone to sit with them to soothe my temper, and rather than face my partner who had taken the brunt of my work and money related anxieties, I eyed it, then just crawled in. It might have been cute, in happier circumstances, and if I were say three, or six. But it felt safe in there, the world reduced to a plush layer of slightly gnawed brown paper all within an arm’s reach. When he found me, we talked about the overwhelming world until a softly snuffling rabbit nose got me to come out.

I am most anxious about time spent unhappily, at work, say, in the pre-morning, and how it nibbles at the time I value, when I am free. Some people like their jobs – I have always found this amazing.

My cat woke me up yesterday morning with an epic concert of meows. This is her daily routine but I’m not usually home to hear it.

We walked around a small lake this afternoon as dusk settled. Swordferns and heavy tendrils of mist surrounded us, and from the path of muck and rock, we saw a raft of dark ducks in tight formation slowly sweep across the lake in front of us.

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Slow Beauty

At work this week I was told that everything I make is beautiful, but couldn’t I do it faster, you know, just step it up a notch? The answer to that is no, not unless I and the end product suffer. I’m more methodical than speedy. Anyone close to me will tell you I really don’t like being rushed.

This got me thinking about my process, and about beautiful things. Good sourdough takes time. Painting usually does too. Making quality things from scratch, like hand-dyed, hand-felted fabric, or handwoven fabric, hand-printed fabric with any depth – these all take time. Embroidery is another beautiful slow art. Maybe the handmade revolution will be a slow one, but I’d like to be part of it, stitching away in a quiet, cozy corner.

Right now, I’m working as a baker, and I make beautiful frangipane tarts, but banging out multiple batches of cookies is not going to happen on days when I’m asked to come in at what my partner and I have started referring to as “pre-morning”. If anyone hears of a job out here where I can quietly make beautiful things at my own pace, let me know – I’ll be looking.

It rained again today and I walked across the bridge into town, enjoying the raindrop spangled trees and trying not to step on bloated worms. The ocean’s surface was rough velvet, melting to invisible.

I am that girl who, drenched and dripping, is grinning wildly. I was soaked. I flirted briefly with umbrellas in grade school but found that they get in the way of the invigoration.

On my way home, the sky made room for a yellow sunset between the cobalt mountains and the dust-grey sky, just an apartment building and some poplars between this slow beautiful fizzle and me.

Good things are worth waiting for, right?

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