My cat Heidi (Pudding) passed away on Friday. She was sixteen, and had decided her time had come. We'd been watching her get thinner and more arthritic all year, and this past week she lost her appetite completely. There was more to it than that, of course, but she made it clear she wasn't interested in hanging on any longer. She was a delightful cat. She spent her kittenhood running up trees after squirrels, then turning around, tail cocked, and running down them, with her ears pinned back and her wildest expression on. She grew to love food, and would put on a concert of yowls until someone would open a can for her in the morning. She was gentle and cuddly, and very quirky. Her warm solid weight was the cause of many accidental couch naps. In her old age she licked the gravy from the wet food and sought sunbeams and warm laps.
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.
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.
I'm at home today, on my first official "earned day off" and I am all but spinning in circles as I struggle to spend it well. I had big plans mapped out yesterday, but my mind has gone foggy as to what they were. There is a distinct chill in the air now. The house was cold all morning and my movements were slow. Now the windows are open and a pleasant breeze traverses the room. I let the rabbits roam, not expecting that they would harass the poor old cat. Fortunately, they gave up easily and each pet is calmly resting in her own sunbeam now. Last night, I locked myself out of the house and sat in the garden. I've done this once before, but this time I pulled the knob tight with an intentional hand. You see, when stacks of dirty dishes sprawl across my kitchen (how does this happen so quickly?), it makes me want to scream. Usually I have the wherewithal to roll up my sleeves and banish them to the dishrack, but occasionally a long day and insufficient snacking will tilt me in the direction of rash emotion and terse words. Rather than scream, I scrammed. I sat at the little table in the back of the garden and wrote as I watched crows move eastward towards the gorge and pink ice-cream-castle clouds settle on the horizon. After a while, after having observed a wren light on the rooftop for a mid-flight song and a scarlet-flushed purple finch seek seed among the arugula pods, and having noted a garden spider's tiny fortress in the cosmos and coriander, I began to shiver more than a little, and knocked rather sheepishly at the garden door.
We had several weeks of deliciously rainy weather and grass and dandelions are coming up everywhere. I am feeling similarly refreshed. Here is what I would like for the months to come: dinner parties/potlucks/cooking and eating in company, forest hikes and foraging for autumn mushrooms, apples in abundance, time spent with loved ones, garlic in the ground, and to cultivate an active and creative lifestyle.
For weeks, I've exchanged comments with coworkers, relatives, and random passers-bys on how it sure feels like summer. Today I clued in to the fact that summer is underway all around me. The garden is now a lush place where we go in the evenings to peruse the makings of dinner and to watch a hummingbird play in the tiny sprinkler. I've come home sun-reddened on several occasions. Today I stood in the ocean with sea anemones and limpets near my toes. There has been a lot of work in my life lately, so much so that my time at home has focused narrowly on washing dishes, lying on the floor and feeding the cat. Old age has been a dream come true for Heidi/Pudding cat; she's lost a lot of weight so we feed her wet food every time she yowls at us or sits in the kitchen looking expectant or follows us around looking lost.
Work this past week has been improved by the following: a USB-powered salt lamp for my desk, homemade pistachio vanilla bean ice cream from an awesome coworker, and a photo of another coworker's enormous cat. It has also improved greatly by my not having to be there today.
I must be getting older because I'm having urges to clean this house and pull weeds. Baking and painting and reading would be nice too.
I had the immense pleasure of deleting and changing alarms in my phone last night. It is so enjoyable waking to daylight. Home coffee and drawn-out breakfast is also a delight after so many rushed and bleary-eyed dark 'mornings'. Even though I'm not a baker at my new job, I still come home covered in flour. It is somewhat of a wonderland of rustic breads and buttery pastries there.
The rain is continuing in a very mellow, Spring sort of way.
A police officer rang our doorbell (which we were surprised to learn we had) about twenty minutes ago and scared the crap out of me. She was here to talk to Jer about some work stuff, totally normal, everything fine. Later on we realized that the bag of catnip on the shelf by the door might not have looked so good, especially not when combined with our coffee table strewn with stuff and two enormous rabbits in a pen with hay everywhere. Oh well, apparently we are not of great concern.
Seven loves to hold and carry things (hay, straw, paper, leafy greens...). Often when I look over she has hay sticking out both sides of her mouth, or just casually draped like a cigar. She got very excited about some large scrumpled sheets of brown packing paper a few minutes ago and circled the living room and me twice, dragging the paper behind her. Zephyr (bunny) is determined to get to know Michette (cat) and cranes her head to nose-bump her as she passes by.
(Seven's contribution as she passed by with paper in tow: =\=8764\iouyt...0`435.'[;m*-k)