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.

b1 b2 b4

 

yesterday

Here is what I started to write yesterday. I wrote a long post this evening as a continuation but the site crashed and it is completely gone.

What’s that, afternoon coffee? Yes, I think I will… I do like having a day off that’s mine and mine alone. The possibilities! Not to mention nobody hearing me grumbling about the housework.

Today the sky is bright grey, if such a colour can exist. The sun behind soupy clouds is responsible for this. I would prefer rain to this indecisive and melancholic sky. In the mountains, tiny snowflakes might be drifting down. Cherry tree petals are scattered on the sidewalks. The songbirds seem quite pleased by this change in the weather; they flit musically between branches, shrubs and soil. Daffodils are coming in fast now, a cheery yellow row in the yard.

I brought home a bucket (probably about 5 kg) of dark chocolate ganache from work yesterday! It was rejected for being grainy but the flavour is still nice. Now I need to use it for something. Banana muffins iced with ganache are first on the list.

I’ve been finding tiny ants in the house. Sugar ants, I call them, though I don’t know if that’s accurate. The first one I appreciated for its antness. I greeted it, escorted it outdoors and thought about ants. The other ones haven’t been so welcome. Yesterday I found an ant on my computer and another on the kitchen island. Sprinkling diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of the log cabin I lived in last summer did a great job of deterring ants so I think it’s time to try that here.

a1 a2 a3

more than enough

On Sunday night when I opened the front door of our house to let the cat outside, a brown caterpillar rolled across the threshold. It seemed symbolic of transformation and beauty unfolding; I carefully scooped it up and put it in a plant outside.

At night in the morning when I go out to the car I have to thwart the frost that sets up home on the windshield. I think I must be traveling right around the frost point because it re-ices determinedly for the first few minutes. Later in the day, our mild coastal spring takes over and you’d never know that it gets wintery in the wee hours.

Today I spent the afternoon with one of my best friends in the world. We basked in the park amidst daffodils and crocuses and Garry oak trees, windswept pines and grasses on a hill overlooking the ocean. Because it is Victoria, resplendent peacocks and peahens stalked around with the mallards, and every direction I looked, squirrels of various colours were racing up and down trees. Five (five!!) herons were lazily perching in a flat-topped pine and as I approached the park several lifted off to flap slow circles around the pond.

I’ve been thinking lately about my purpose in life. Some people -okay, a lot- are helping others as health care professionals, teachers etc. I feel like what I can contribute is creativity. I think, done well, that can be more than enough.

Yesterday I rearranged all our furniture. Every once in a while I get the urge to change everything and it certainly does freshen the place up.

Seven the bunny is taking strawberry-flavored medicine for her ear infection. She’s much easier to medicate than a cat. (Though J does the administering, thankfully.) She still tumbles and goes in circles but since it’s only the second day we’re very hopeful that it will help. The medicine is sticky and her fuzzy little chin works hard afterwards to clear her mouth. Zephyr, her robust and adventurous sister-bunny has discovered the couch. She hopped up right next to Pudding-cat, at which point I gently intervened. The cats are getting more tolerant, but we don’t want to push them, and Pudding does feel strongly about the couch.

daffodils

 

the sky in the evening

I’m on my way to bed. Hoping that one day I’ll look in the mirror and the shadows under my eyes will have faded in darkness. Some days it’s easy to get down. How it would bolster my comfort in the world to know what’s for dinner, but at least there are endless possibilities for dinner. I need to repeat to myself that everything has a way of working out perfectly, and to remind myself that things have a way of happening better than expected. That even though I feel stuck, so much has been happening, and so much good unfolding.

Here is what I’ve noticed lately.

Pink and blue clouds of the crepuscular sky reflected calico on the smooth water near the shore.

Sliver of a crescent moon in the sky, earthshine moon behind. Twice reflected sunlight or moonglow mist. Venus brighter than the moon and hovering below its lapel. Not a star, belied by its steady gaze. Stellar scintillation happening overhead though, a tiny twinkling to the left.

Clutches of crows lifting off rooftops like smoke or dandelion seeds against blue sky, white clouds like ridges in sandbars.

Yesterday we returned to the lagoon and on the beach in front of where we pulled up a stately and elegant swan stood at the water’s edge, facing us. It stayed still for some time, towering over the ducks which surrounded it like cygnets around a protector. Yesterday also, I wore a summer dress and J dug our yard into a garden.

IMG_7273

not to be taken lightly

Seven the sweet bunny has an ear infection. And her teeth are a little offset so she needs to have some dental work done. Poor baby.

This morning I tried to apply online for a job I found a couple days ago. The pay wasn’t great, but the work seemed alright and for an interesting business in the healthy foods industry. I hit the submit button and it didn’t work. Tried another ten times (because that totally helps…), but it looks like the ad got taken down already. The most frustrating thing about missed opportunities is that I can only blame myself. Did a semi-desperate search of the job board again. I’m getting pretty tired of chasing around jobs that pay only slightly better than minimum wage. I could just keep doing what I’m doing, which I like for 3 days of the week and dislike for 2 days, and hope that eventually I can switch to better hours or that something ideal will someday come up for me. Or, I have this back-up plan: I could go back up north for the summer as a wildfire dispatcher, which is a pretty neat job with awesome pay, but it really sucks to be so far away from home and from my man and the bunnies and everyone. The awesome pay would help us pay off student debts so we could get on with having better lives. I need to decide pretty soon though because the application deadline is probably right around the end of this month. I’ve filled out the forms. One minute, I’ve decided that I’ll go. Thirty seconds later, I’m staying for sure. Back and forth. 1,765 km from home is not to be taken lightly. With the money I make we would be closer to being able to afford to start a family. But what is money to almost half a year apart? There, butterflies and big active skies, relentless sunshine and aspen trees of the boreal forest. It is undeniably beautiful. The bugs are so bad I spent most of my spare time indoors. Not to mention fear of dry lightening strikes. Here, dipping into the ocean at the end of the day. Family. Home. Garden parties and cool evening breezes. What is it worth? I think I need some help with this one.

There have been shriveled mandarin oranges sitting neglected in the fruit bowl for ages here, since other citrus have come and gone and fresh kiwis are available at the farmers market. In order to save them from sitting longer or worse, hitting the compost, I thought it was worth a try baking them into scones. I am pretty devoted to Molly Wizenberg’s Scottish Scone recipe so I thought I would try a variation of it here. I’d say that I’ve had more luck when I followed her original recipe more closely, and with fruit like raspberries, strawberries or rhubarb. The dough was a little sticky, but manageable. The orange segments were wily and resistant when I divided the dough into scones, but it could just be that I need to sharpen our knives. After 15 minutes in the oven, these still looked quite pale so I left them another five-ish minutes but may have overbaked them slightly as I feel they could be more tender. A recipe that needs more testing perhaps, but a pretty tasty way to use up languishing oranges.

scone IMG_6077

Orange Oat Cardamom Scones
recipe based on these scones by Orangette
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup oat flour (you can make this! – or buy it, or just substitute all-purpose flour or WW pastry flour or something)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cardamom
3 tbsp vanilla sugar (aka cane sugar that has vanilla beans hanging out in it from the last time you made something with a vanilla bean. Organic cane sugar is nicest.)
2 oz butter, cubed and chilled
zest of 3 small mandarin oranges
7 small mandarin oranges, peeled, segmented and de-seeded
1 egg
1/2 cup whole milk (Not homogenized though because your body doesn’t know what to do with the tiny fat particles- get the kind with the cream on top. Cream of some kind could be deliciously substituted.)
Preheat oven to 425º. Stir together dry ingredients. Cut in butter until the lumps are not bigger than a pea. Toss in fruit and zest. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk, then add it to the dry ingredients, reserving about 1 1/2 tbsp to use as a wash, then gently stirring/folding with a wooden spoon until the dough barely comes together. Turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead it just until it’s cohesive, as few times as possible. Flatten dough into a circle, about 1/2″ thick, then slice it into 8-12 scones. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with the egg-milk wash (if it looks like you won’t have enough then thin it out with some milk or water). I sprinkled a little vanilla sugar on top but it kind of disappeared during baking. Medium or coarse sugar would be better, and I will eventually buy some. Bake 10-15 minutes, until golden, or longer if it still looks doughy. Cool on a wire rack (but eat while still warm, with butter). These should keep for a few days in a cookie tin, and might be nice if re-heated in a toaster.

 

today

Birds that sing before dawn, the fading of darkness not yet begun. Through dark branches, a robin, rosy breast glowing soft as morning stars in inky blue. Turquoise streaks creep into the sky from the east.

Today, a good day. I spoke with a beloved friend on the phone. I walked down the street with bare arms, venturing into the kind of shop that gives you tea in marimekko mugs. Work was a pleasant blur involving galettes.

IMG_6629

making an effort

I dropped the “good morning” muffins first thing this morning. Irony is not lost at on me at five am. They fell in a heavy arc, landing right-side up in a gooey mess. The split-second slip resulted in fifteen minutes of re-scooping batter, as the soft muffin trays folded in on themselves. Only one nascent muffin was lost to the floor (there is no five-second rule in a commercial kitchen), upon which I stepped on it accidentally before cleaning it up. Later in the day, I was asked to take an early morning shift for a coworker. I think my face and my drawn-out oookaay betrayed me. All I could think of was how happy I’ll be when I never have to do the early shift again, and the idea of doing an extra one was far from welcome. I am trying not to get desperate in my search for a new line of work. I’m hoping that if I keep showing up and putting myself out there and making an effort, that the right thing will come along in perfect time.

In other news, I think everyone should occasionally cry the good, honest tears that come from chopping an onion. It’s surely cleansing and grounding in some way. Especially when it results in quiche.

photo-4  photo3  photo-5

Mixed Vegetable Quiche with pressed Cheese Crust

The crust recipe is from my mother- I think she may have gotten it from the Among Friends rotary cookbook

Crust
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 cup grated cheddar
1/4 cup butter, melted and somewhat cooled

Filling
1 yellow onion, diced
broccoli, to taste (maybe two small heads)
other veggies, according to what you have in mind or in the fridge (garlic, leeks, peppers, zucchini, kale… bacon, while not a vegetable is also nice)
1 cup grated cheese (approx.- possibly more- or less)
herbs to season – I like thyme, tarragon and poultry seasoning

Custard
4 to 6 eggs (I usually use 5)
a generous sploosh of milk- try about 1 to 1 1/2 cups, it will depend on the filling and on the pie dish. Cream of any kind is a delicious substitution.
salt and pepper to taste

Begin by dicing and sautéing the onion. If you are adding bacon, add it now. Peppers, zucchini and garlic can be added once the onion has softened. Melt the butter for the crust and stir together all the other crust ingredients in an 8″ pie dish. Add the butter and mix with a fork, then with your hands. Press the crust in an even layer to cover the pie dish. It can be crumbly and finicky at first but eventually you will gently force it into place. Wash veggies like broccoli and kale and cut them into bite-sized pieces. I don’t cook them in advance because I find they get plenty of cooking time in the oven. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. In the pie dish, layer the sautéed veg, the raw veg and the cheese, then pour the custard over top. Bake at 350º for 45-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave it to cool and firm up for a few minutes before digging in.

Note: A dear friend made this and found that there was not enough crust and too much custard, so you may want to consider increasing the crust, maybe even doubling it, and using less eggs and milk as it is easy to whisk together more with a fork. I do press the crust fairly thin. Also, going back to add this note I discovered a big typo: I had written 1/2 tsp grated cheddar for the crust when it should be 1/2 cup! My sincere apologies to anyone who followed this and had a rather lame crust as a result. Please consider trying it again with more cheese.

everything I hope for

The rabbits are sneaking up on the houseplant behind me. The cat is at the door, scratching first on the inside, then on the outside. The other cat is on the couch trying to convince J to nap with her. Just a normal evening at our house.

The sun descended behind the sky’s ragged hem of blue mountains, all streaks of pink and orange fire framed by branches yet to leaf out. This morning it did the same thing but in reverse and with a great deal more magenta.

We drove out to the lagoon to look at birds through battered binoculars. Ever-present and yet-to-be-properly -identified gulls wheeled around and hopped playfully on the beach of broken shells. Mallards, pintails and widgeons dabbled in shallow water in the late afternoon light. In a moment that was like a rush of breath, two swans flew in close over our heads and then disappeared on the horizon, their graceful bodies huge. It felt like a gift.

Recently, I had a thirty-minute wait after work before J came by with the car. I found a bench in the sun and sat quietly with myself, the sun in my eyes and its warmth on my skin. I have fallen out of the habit of daily meditation, and it felt so good to come back to myself there, the warmth and light of spring awakening me too to the present. We have gotten lazy about our evening yoga too, but small poses work their way through my body in the course of the day.

Today when I got home, I found a sunbeam. I carried blankets and pillows to where the floor in the front hallway was a crisscross of light and painted relief of many years’ scratches. Spring here is so delicious this year. It is everything I hope for in a spring. I know it’s early for most of the country but these are the rhythms I was raised with and I often found myself impatient with the mountains’ slow melt and fickle reruns of winter.

photo photo-1

this is all

– blossoming indian plum in the forest

– beautiful morning today: sunrise, light frost, cherry blossoms, toast, the magic potential of this time of year, and the reassuring feeling that came over me that I am exactly where I need to be and everything is unfolding as it should

IMG_7996