Marching through April
Here we are, April. It is such a surreal moment in time that the passing of hours, days, and weeks doesn't quite feel the way it used to, and I imagine it won't for some time to come. How are you doing? Really, how are you? It's a question to keep returning to. The checking in, the temperature taking, whether figurative or literal...the sorting out how to navigate this whole strange new world seems to be the compelling task at hand. I miss my friends. I miss the entire community I've created both in my personal and professional life, as I imagine you do too. How could we not? Everything "normal" steadfast and true has been upended indefinitely. That is the challenge, I feel. The part of all of this that is indefinite, which is to say everything. So, we ride the wave and hope to make it safely to shore. At least that is how I'm looking at it.
Another thing I'm looking at are the beautiful gardens in my neighborhood. The days include intermittent walks, and I try to document some of the more inspiring examples of the season. The birdsong and the vivid flowers are such a pleasure, aren't they? I am so grateful that this quarantine business has coincided with springtime. I am also grateful for my team, all working remotely and whom I miss so much. I am really looking forward to the reunions ahead of us. I miss making lunch at the boutique, and our afternoon ginger tea ritual. Of course I am doing lots of cooking and ginger tea making at home, where I am lucky to have such a receptive and appreciative audience. There is a LOT of cooking and eating going on in our house, which along with being healthy is one of the reasons to be the most grateful of all.
I have always loved the spirit of generosity inherent in cooking, and in the sharing of recipes. I'm keeping a diary of our nightly dinners, not to mention what I'm making to stock the refrigerator for lunches and snacking, so if you want any ideas just ask. I'm keeping track of things in this beautiful notebook that one of my dearest friends gave me a couple of months ago. I absolutely love it, and it's really the perfect gift for someone who loves to cook.
At the moment I am focused on connecting with people I am thinking of and missing as much as I can. I've decided to watercolor a set of postcards, making excellent use of the beautiful Japanese watercolor set I received for Christmas. They were a gift from someone I cherish, so using them gives me even more joy. So this is what my "desk" looked like this morning. I have always liked working on the floor for some reason, and this set up seems to suit me best (after trying several, as one sharing a house with three other humans is required to do). Of course I have one of our beeswax candles burning, and my morning hot water with half a lemon. I can't drink coffee, so this is how I have started my day for the last 25 years or so.
You can also catch a glimpse of my Liberty Print dressing gown. This one happens to be one of my favorites, and I think we may have one left in this glorious print, if you're interested. I also really love the print below, and all the different ways it can be worn. In light of the extended lockdown period we are offering a 25% discount on all lingerie, and continue to donate 10% of those sales to No Kid Hungry, helping to support the most vulnerable amongst us. The discount will apply automatically at check-out.
It is certainly tempting to stay in one's bedclothes all day, but for my mental health and well-being, I get properly dressed everyday. It does wonders for my spirits I find, as does sleeping in beautiful nightclothes. Now that everyone in the house is together in the mornings, I am experiencing the other side of that equation, which is the effect that seeing your housemates in lovely sleepwear has. It is such a boost to see everyone well turned out. I've always been a proponent for dressing for one's self, without any regard really to how it affects anyone else. Now I see it from a fresh perspective, and it's almost a public service to put yourself together for the sake of those with whom you live. Trust me on this. It really does elevate the mornings.
While I was painting, I made a little playlist, which you can listen to if you like. Music feels important now, as do books. I just finished a book that I can't recommend highly enough. It was suggested by a lovely friend in London for our Zoom bookclub. I'm fortunate to not need to Zoom so much for work, but bookclub and the occasional cocktail hour with friends has been a sincere treat. Back to the book, it is A Month in Siena, by Hisham Matar. Have you heard of it? I hadn't, but I am so delighted to have read it. It is divine. I now can't wait to read everything else he has written. It was quite inspirational.
Speaking of inspiring, did you hear Queen Elizabeth's speech last week? If you haven't, I encourage you to take a few moments to watch. She is such a treasure. Her calm, compassionate, and wise words were a balm for the world. The turquoise and diamond brooch worn above her heart was a reminder that beauty is always a tonic, and made me think of the turquoise and diamond ring that might be one of my all time favorite creations.
For Easter this Sunday, I think I'll make this delicious little chocolate cake. I had been trying to sort out what exactly to do with the almond pulp from all of the almond milk I keep making for Sacha, who apparently loves an almond milk latte (the effects of living in Brooklyn, perhaps?). I made it last Sunday, and it lasted all of an afternoon. Between the four of us, it was well finished by the end of the day. Let me know what you think.
Chocolate Almond Cake
Almond pulp from making almond milk* (approximately 185 grams)
110 grams sugar
110 grams butter
10 grams baking powder
125 grams dark chocolate (I use 71% Valrhona)
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
confectioner's sugar for dusting
Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler, and remove from heat. In a medium sized bowl, mix together almond meal, sugar and baking powder. Add eggs, one at a time and whisk to incorporate. Add vanilla, followed by the chocolate + butter mixture. Whisk to combine. Bake in a parchment lined small springform pan for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool, and dust with confectioner's sugar to serve.
*If you haven't got a recipe for almond milk that you love, mine is dead simple. Soak 1 cup of almonds overnight in water. Drain in the morning, and add to 3.5 cups water in the vitamix, along with 3 pitted dates, a splash of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and a dash of cinnamon. Blend for a few minutes, then strain through a nutmillk bag. The remaining pulp is what I use for the cake, though I like to let it dry out a bit overnight.
Stay well, and enjoy the silver linings of this unprecedented time.