A crimson fire that vanquishes the stars;
A pungent odor from the dusty sage;
A sudden stirring of the huddled herds;
A breaking of the distant table-lands
Through purple mists ascending, and the flare
Of water ditches silver in the light;
A swift, bright lance hurled low across the world;
A sudden sickness for the hills of home.
- Willa Cather
This May is hot and dry. We did not have enough rain and already the back hillside grass has turned yellow. Tonight I watched a hummingbird flit unsuccessfully through the tall weeds; the warm of the day carrying eucalyptus and jasmine fragrance through the neighborhood. (Nearby, on the patio, Harriet stalked lizards.)
I love how Cather connects the single line images with the heartsickness of home. I know Cather for her beautiful novels, but very recently learned she is a poet too. If you are unfamiliar with her works, I'd recommend her short stories ("Neighbor Rosicky" is my favorite) and her novel "My Antonia". I like to read her books because of the midwest settings. My mother grew up there and on nights like tonight, when the last bit of light filters across the golden hillside, I wonder if images like this would make her long "for the hills of home."
(For a view of what the hillside looked like in early spring, see here.)
Really, is there anything to match the perfection of a peanut butter cookie? I have been longing for them lately and mixed up a batch on a weeknight. It is such an unfussy thing that they come together pretty quickly. When the first batch exited the oven, I offered up one to my husband. He took a few bites and looked at me in silence. His response? "You put these together in like 20 minutes. Do you mean to tell me all this time I've only been about 20 minutes away from having these?! What do we not make them all the time!" And in fact, that Friday night, we made a second batch.
This recipe is from The Fiddlehead Cookbook. (Other Fiddlehead favorites- hereand here).
peanut butter cookies
1/4 pound plus 4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 well-packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1) Preheat oven to 350 and arrange racks so they are evenly spaced in oven.
2) In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until soft. Add white and brown sugars and beat until fluffy.
3) Add egg and beat until smooth, then add vanilla and peanut butter. Beat well.
4) Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt and add to butter mixture. Stir until completely combined.
5) Spooned walnut-size balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten slightly with lightly floured tines of a fork.
6) Bake for 12 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to racks. When cooled, store tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to 2 days.
I was sad all day, and why not. There I was, books piled
on both sides of the table, paper stacked up, words
falling off my tongue.
The robins had been a long time singing, and now it
was beginning to rain.
What are we sure of? Happiness isn't a town on a map,
or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work
ongoing. Which is not likely to be the trifling around
with a poem.
Then it began raining hard, and the flowers in the yard
were full of lively fragrance.
You have had days like this, no doubt. And wasn't it
wonderful, finally, to leave the room? Ah, what a
As for myself, I swung the door open. And there was
the wordless, singing world. And I ran for my life.
- Mary Oliver
When I was visiting Seattle in March, I woke up to snow! It was the loveliest gray morning and while the snow was not sticking to the ground, big fluffy flakes fell for a good 30 minutes. My sisters little grape hyacinth plant bravely made it through the onslaught. Such is the perseverance of spring.
Do yourself a favor- next time you are in Seattle, go to the Dale Chihuly glass museum. It is right downtown next to the Space Needle. More than a month later, I am still dreaming about it. Some of the pieces feel like a cirque du soleil still life- they pulsate with energy, color, vibrancy.
The museum is also feels so accessible and as a visitor and novice of his work, I was able to quickly connect to the different periods of his designs.
While he has completed installations all over the world, there is something very northwestern in his pieces too. (This book reminds me of it.)
In addition to the gorgeous interior museum rooms, there is a gorgeous outdoor garden.
My sisters and I agree that this would be one heck of a place to throw a party.
I love to look back, at photos, at a memory of a place and remember how happy that moment was. I have been thinking a lot about Paris lately- about a year ago we were getting ready to go there for a weeklong visit. I find myself day dreaming: walking into different museums, strolling down sunlit streets, perched at cafes for hours sipping rose.
In pictures, we (my husband and I) seem suspended in time and light. In those still shots, it is just the two of us discovering this beautiful place together. I was amazed at how quickly a foreign place could feel like home, because we were together.
And maybe that is the piece that I carry with me. That wherever I am, when we are together, it is my home- Parisian streets or just everyday life.
Besides photos, for me, food is one of the quickest ways to recall travel. Trying to recreate certain dishes or flavors is a fun challenge I look forward to. In my Parisian day dreaming, this past weekend, I put together a California version of a cafe lunch for us- steamed artichokes, chilled rose and little open-faced tuna and hummus sandwiches.
The salty tuna, earthy hummus and peppery radish make a nice little bite. Also, I realize I am very late to this party, but Italian tuna packed in olive oil is pretty amazing.
This recipe is from The Barefoot Contessa's 'How Easy Is That?'
tuna and hummus sandwiches
14 ounces jarred or canned Italian tuna in olive oil
1/4 cup minced celery
2 tablespoons minced yellow onion (I used scallions here)
2 tablespoons minced cornichons (I doubled this to 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I go easy on this and just add to taste- with the pickles and mustard, I think it hardly needs any)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sourdough bread, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
hummus, store-bought or homemade
fresh radishes, sliced
1) Drain the oil from the tuna, reserving the oil. Place the tuna in a mixing bowl and flake it with a fork. Add the celery, onion, cornichons, lemon juice, mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil, the mustard, salt, and pepper and mix well.
2) Cover a refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop.
3) Toast the bread (let it cool a bit) and spread each slice with a layer of hummus. Spread the tuna salad on each piece of bread, garnish with slices of radish and served immediately.
So I put them in the sink, for the cool porcelain
and took out the tattered and cut each stem
on a slant,
trimmed the black and raggy leaves, and set them all-
roses, delphiniums, daises, iris, lilies,
and more whose names I don't know, in bright new water-
a bounce upward at the end to let them take
their own choice of position, the wheels, the spurs,
the little sheds of the buds. It took, to do this,
perhaps fifteen minutes.
Fifteen minutes of music
with nothing playing.