Sunday, January 16, 2011
Winter themes and variations
The cold-but-perfect weather has continued in St. Augustine. Rodney and I walked at Guana yesterday and the day before under polished blue skies and bright sunshine, the air temp around 50 degrees, but with an uncompromising wind blowing at about 15 miles an hour out of the north-northeast. We even took two of the dogs, who love walking on the beach as much as we do, but have certain prejudices against chilly weather. At a certain point, no amount of whale-watching or red knot-sighting or even possible gopher tortoise observations are enough to keep Meg from sitting down firmly, shivering pathetically, and insisting on going home for winter sports like toasting marshmallows by the fire or making pots of soup. As it happened that we saw no whales those days, we gave in and returned to the fireside.
But the winter's theme of repeating something in the name of learning it to the point of excellence seems to persist. We've begun to get early Florida strawberries, and they've been baked into several variations of a remarkable coffee cake (the recipe for which originated with the venerable Bibical reference of cake-baking, Susan Purdy's A Piece of Cake). We used blueberries in one instance, but there's something perfectly balanced in the pairing of this cake's delicacy and the late-winter strawberries. This is the one we baked last night, with Rodney and I as sous chef supporting kitchen staff, and Dylan as Chef de Cuisine. My phone camera doesn't do it justice, but no camera could capture its sublime simplicity without benefit of palate. You'll have to take my word for it. And as always if anyone's interested, the Eat Here kitchen is happy to provide a how-to.
As for me, I have been distracted from most other recreation for the past couple of weeks as a contagion has possessed me more and more thoroughly. Just look at this. Thanks to some people who shall remain nameless (but I'm looking at you, Elisabeth) I have become obsessed with color and texture and have spent the past few weeks crocheting thing after thing. Even with my phone camera, you can see the intriguing greens and creams, reds and golds that have captured by eye and my heart. I'm only able to make the most rudimentary designs. I'm not capable of the elaborately adorable designs of my friend Erin at Ultra Cute Crochet. I'm not even close to the elegance of design imagined and created by Elisabeth Williamson of Mon Amie Ribbonerie, whose crocheted confetti pieces are treasured by the owners of her pieces, but whose artistic endeavors are more and more focused on ribbon flowers. But I can make a couple of things, and my winter labors are concentrated on making those pieces over and over again, learning with each piece. (See the beach photo of Rodney, above, who is wearing a slightly flawed but well-loved example of my handiwork.) The joy of matching colors and textures, high contrast and subtle shading, soft as lambs wool or smooth and fresh as cotton...these are the pleasures of winter for me this year. I hope your fireside is comforting and some of your joys as simple and uncomplicated as these.
A final note about the rhythm of winter and the coming of spring: I saw the first robin yesterday. My dear Jayne and I try to mark the promise of spring with this early visible sign. Last year the robins were here on the first of January; this year, a bit later. Whether early or late, the promise of spring always arrives with the folding of their wings.