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Pegasus Is My Patronus

If you are familiar with Harry Potter then you know what a patronus is. (If not, check out this explainer.) I like the books and the concept, but also the imagery. So I decided to see if I could work out how to do the glowing-semi-translucent-super-cool-flying-animal effect in Affinity Photo.

I used a modified version of this Photoshop tutorial, and while the instructions don’t exactly translate to Affinity it was close enough to get me in the ballpark.

And of course now all I can see are the bits I’d like to change,* but isn’t that always the way? Next time!

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* Seriously, those wings are way too small. It’s so weird that a mythical Greek creature swapped into a magical wizarding world refuses to obey the laws of physics.

One of our neighbors has a decades-old grape vine that is both enthusiastic and agile, and it has branched out to surround our shared yards, three fences, and at least two trees. It is also a prolific producer of grapes. Wildlife like them, but sometimes too much. Last year we were a hit with wasps, which I could have done without.

This year, hot off the pick-your-own fruit farm, I decided to try a bit of juicing.

Grapes + Instant Pot == juice, and it’s dark purple and dang tasty.

I should have used a higher grape-to-water ratio, but didn’t want to waste the fruit if the recipe was a dud. The juice is just about sweet enough to drink straight and tastes of minerals and a fall afternoon. I suspect these grapes would make fantastic wine.

Have I discovered one of the long-lost vines behind the prized vintages of the Elven Court in Exile?

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Photo by Roberta Sorge on Unsplash

Progress is Fun

I’m having fun crossing things off my list, like juicing my backyard grapes and mowing. I also spent some time with a compositing tutorial, and made this image as a reminder that the world is often deeper and more astonishing than meets the eye.

Photos by Kamil Lehmann and Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

Plus, whales are cool.

This is my (non-day job related) To Do List Action Matrix (sounds very official, amirite?)

Ooh, I feel the actiony energies bubbling up already. Wait, how is it lunchtime already?

Not the complete list, you understand, but a selection of the items I am most likely to tackle in the next few days.

He he. Let’s see how far I get, shall we?

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Photo by Omer Salom on Unsplash

A storm rolled through last night.

I’ve always loved good thunder and lightning, but this was next level. As I listened to the rumbles like drums and watched bolts of energy streak through the sky, I thought a bit about Mother Nature, and how we often seem to be playing catch-up.

When it’s wet, find a nice cave for shelter. If it’s cold, master fire. If it floods, head for high ground until the water recedes.

I’m oversimplifying, of course, but our instincts, and now our infrastructure and our policies, often seem static or reactive. Particularly in times of great change.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get ahead of the curve?

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Take pollinators, for example. (You knew I’d get to that at some point, didn’t you?)

In the US and Canada, my home turf, communities are full of bylaws governing what you can and can’t do with property in the communal sphere. It’s your land, but you probably aren’t allowed to grow a towering oak directly under a power line or leave rusting car parts by the sidewalk as a tetanus reservoir for children and dogs. 

That’s all seems reasonable, and on the side of the greater good. But what about redefining “good” to include not just aesthetically pleasing symbols of European aristocracy in a bygone era (aka close-cropped grass lawns), but also what we all need for a healthy and successful future?

Take this gentleman as an example:

Kansas City Man’s Plea For Native Flower Justice Unites Gardeners Around The World

He did what scientists and ecologists around the world are encouraging, and turned his yard into a pollinator paradise. My hat is off to him. But the city reacted by telling him to cut it down because it violated city code. I would argue that this is because they are operating on an outdated definition of what’s “good.”

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recent survey asked teens how they felt about the job their elders are doing on climate, and the results were both predictable and cause for a bit of reflection. The kids are deeply disappointed, and they have reason. The good news is that many members of “Generation Greta” aren’t waiting around.

That’s not to say that nothing has changed. Solar panels, electric vehicles, wind turbines, the push for accountability down the supply chain, all good things. Even so, many of our current policies remain stuck in the past. We’re on the right path but we’re not going fast enough. And not everyone is moving in the same direction.

It’s time for the sort of thinking at which writers and creatives (and teenagers) excel: new ideas, new approaches, and a reimagining of what we can do now, even in the face of current challenges.

Even if it’s something as small as what grows in your front yard.

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As I sat there last night in my cave, rain and thunder all around, I realized that our definitions aren’t all that will matter in the end.

And that it’s always smart to stay on Mother Nature’s good side.

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Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

Me Today

It’s Tuesday and I’m balancing multiple project deadlines, staying one step ahead of potential disaster (much like this aerial acrobat, but with a tad less flexibility)!

Hope you are too:)

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Original Photo by Daniel Eledut on Unsplash

Good to Know!

It’s like this fortune cookie knows me…

A plan you have been working on for a long time is beginning to take shape.
Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

Fruit Torte

Yesterday: a pretty fall day + road trip + Les Fruits du Poirier pick-your-own fruit farm = fun 🙂

This particular farm has the usual apples, pears, raspberries, etc. but they also specialize in the less usual. Not everything was in season, but they also grow fruits like haskap, sea buckthorn, gooseberries, and northern kiwi. Yes, that kiwi! The northern variety is smaller than the imported variety you find in stores, but it is sweeter, with thinner skin and no fuzz, which means it doesn’t have to be peeled. 

Photo by William Felker on Unsplash

We had to look up half of what we saw, either because we didn’t recognize the plant or because we’d never heard of it before (jostaberry?). We used a click to ID app called Picture This (free to use but you have to navigate a maze of “sign up now!” screens, but I’m sure there are others.

The day was beautiful and it was great to get outside and into the country. Recommended.

Photo by Esther Wechsler on Unsplash

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Today: baking.

I had some plums waiting for a recipe, and I ran across this one for plum torte. The original was a wildly popular New York Times recipe that ran for years. This version is slightly modified and includes comments to help triangulate your own changes.

Best Plum Torte Recipe – How to Make Marian Burros’ Purple Plum Cake

It’s easy and delicious. Of course I added a few minor adjustments.

I made a plum version a few days ago, and today I made a plum with cinnamon, a peach with cinnamon and cardamom, and two mixed berry* tortes with cinnamon and just a splash of Grand Marnier. Apparently, they freeze well.

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Fruit Torte

(by way of Food52’s adaptation of Marian Burros’ Purple Plum Cake)

— makes one 8″ or 9” layer

Ingredients

  • 120g / 1 C. all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 5g / 1 t. baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 150g / 3/4 C. sugar
  • 115g / 1/2 C. butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 t. vanilla (or somewhat more Grand Marnier)
  • 9 small plums, pitted and quartered lengthwise, or other fruit (if boring, season with a little lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon)
  • 2 t. sugar and ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Directions

  • Heat the oven to 350° F. 
  • Prep an 8 or 9-inch cake pan. I used a round of parchment paper and buttered the interior, then dusted bottom and sides with a mix of sugar and cinnamon to avoid sticking.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Cream the sugar and butter until very light and fluffy, about 5–7 minutes with my mixer. I recommend mechanical means unless you want to be there all day.
  • Add the dry ingredients, eggs and vanilla all at once, and beat until combined, scraping down the sides a couple of times.
  • Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Arrange the fruit on top of the batter. Sprinkle the top with sugar and cinnamon.
  • Bake 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in its pan for 10 minutes, and then remove. Invert onto a cooling rack, then flip back onto another rack to finish cooling.

Notes

— The recipe called for a springform pan but they aren’t my favorite. (It would make cooling easier.) I used a 9” cake pan.

— One batch of batter weighs ~475g, in case you’re doubling the recipe.

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* In addition to pints of red raspberries, yellow raspberries, pears, apples, and kiwi, we picked up a haskap pie (no judgement, they were baking and it smelled amazing), and a frozen bag of haskap, red and white currants, raspberries, gooseberries, and Saskatoon berries.

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Twenty Years

Photo by Lerone Pieters on Unsplash

To Democracy

Today, I voted. What a wonderful thing.

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Photo by Lewis Parsons on Unsplash