Hazelnut blackberry pear tart and almond strawberry tart (with chocolate, of course!)

Blackberry, pear and hazelnut tart

Blackberry, pear and hazelnut tart

I think I had a big stupid smile on my face the entire time we watched Melody. Why the big 103-minute idiot grin? It wasn’t because the movie is sweet, although it certainly is. Nor because it is a happy movie, although in many ways it’s that, too. It was because it just felt so perfect. Everything about it was exactly as it needed to be. I could imagine the filmmakers watching the dailies and brimming over with gladness that they’d captured the shots they’d captured, and then adding just the right soundtrack, editing it perfectly, and sitting in the dark, full of joy, watching the finished movie. It’s an odd film in many ways. It’s called Melody, and it tells the story of a sweet sort of romance between Daniel Lassiter and Melody Perkins, but it’s almost more focussed on Daniel’s friendship with the kind but unruly urchin Ornshaw. Daniel is a child of relative privilege and Ornshaw is not, and the film reminded me of Machucha in that their friendship seems unexpected and almost discouraged, because it crosses certain unwritten boundaries; boundaries that adults create between certain types of people, boundaries which make no sense to children, but which they learn to honor and fear. And although the film is exceedingly sweet, it’s never saccharine. It’s too real for that. Apparently it’s Alan Parker’s first film script, and it’s beautifully told. The story unfolds in small meaningful moments, just like real friendships, just like life. We see spells of loneliness, moments of connection, misunderstandings and disappointments. When Melody and Daniel first spend any time together, they don’t really talk at all. She plays Frere Jaques on her recorder, and he joins in on his cello. They don’t play particularly well, but it feels as though they’re happy to be talking to each other. Like everything else in the movie, it’s the messiness and imperfection that makes the scene so beautifully human. Nothing is over-told, or too carefully explained, and we feel like we’re just watching the world from Daniel’s point of view. The camera catches the expressions of the people around him, and though the adults are almost grotesque, often cruel, and never capable of the clarity of thought that the children achieve, we still feel a certain affection for all of them. But why must they complicate everything? Why can’t they see how it should be? And though the film is sweet, it’s also anarchic, almost surreally so towards the end, in a scene that reminded me of Vigo’s Zero for Conduct. I think part of the reason that Melody made me so happy is that I’d never heard of it before about a week ago. It’s been around since 1971, and I had no idea it existed. It feels like a discovery! I found it because I’ve been obsessed with Nina Simone’s version of the song In the Morning. It turns out the original is by the Bee Gees (the Bee Gees!) and is just part of the ridiculously addictive soundtrack to this film. I love all the songs! Who would have thought? I love it all! I wonder which other films are out there, waiting to be discovered?

Strawberry chocolate almond tart

Strawberry chocolate almond tart

Here at The Ordinary, we call these tarts “Dormouse pies.” Because they contain dormice? Certainly not! Because they were inspired by the hazelnut and blackberry diet of a dormouse. They have a shortbread crust, a layer of jam, and a crunchy top layer of nuts and chocolate. I made two small tarts, one with blackberry jam, fresh ripe pears, hazelnuts and bittersweet chocolate and one with strawberry jam, almonds and bittersweet chocolate. They’re both very good. Very very, dangerously good. I made two 6 inch tarts, but you could easily make one 10 or 11 inch tart with these ingredients, I think.

Here’s To Love Somebody from Melody, and a passage from the movie demonstrating all the beauty, humor, and affection contained therein.
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Hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookies (with black currant jam)

Hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookie

Hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookie

Yesterday was a bright, blustery, bewildering day. The leaves are all gone from the trees, but the wind shook the dark branches, and the light came white and strong at such an angle that it was always in your eyes. We walked the boys to school, and in about five minutes I got a call to pick Malcolm up, because he had a headache. An hour later I got a call to pick Isaac up, because he felt like he was in an oven and someone was playing ping pong with his head, and because he felt a little noxious. They spent the rest of the day flying around the house singing. They were fine, mostly. They’d sit down every once in a while and say they felt queasy, but it never lasted for long. I’m perpetually dizzy, myself, so we made quite a trio. It was a strange, nice day, the time passed in odd leaps and it felt like an in-between day…not quite sick, not quite well, not quite dozing, not quite awake. We don’t have too many days home together once school starts, with me gone at work all weekend, so it felt like a needed day. Malcolm and I went to the grocery store, which sounds dull, but is one of my favorite things to do, and one of the things I miss most about summer. He was very quiet, and said he felt a little funny, but he also said he was fine. We talked about what might be worrying him, what might be giving him a headache that sends him home from school. He’s had lots of academic stress lately, and today he’s at sleepaway camp for the first time ever. We talked a little about those things, but mostly we just drove through the slatted white bright sunshine and it felt good to be with him not talking. At the store he asked for a bag of mints, and I said sure, because he’s not feeling well and he was being so thoughtful and kind. It was on the top shelf, and when he brought it back to the cart he said, “You can always reach something if you really want it.” We came home and I was confused about the time of day so I was useless for anything but baking cookies. We made pizzas and packed Malcolm’s bag. This morning I had a brief moment of panic, a sort of lost slipping feeling, that I wasn’t packing Malcolm’s lunch for school, that for two-and-a-half days I wouldn’t be there to make sure he had enough to eat and was warm enough and got everything he needed. But he’ll be alright. If he really wants something, he can always reach it.

hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookies

hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookies

These are the cookies I made yesterday. Hazelnut and chocolate chip shortbread with black currant jam in the center. Of course you can use any kid of jam you like, but I recommend black currant, because its tartness sets off the sweetness of the rest of the cookie in a nice way.

Here’s Dizzy by Tommy Roe.

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Hazelnut oatmeal chocolate cake with cinnamon and black pepper

hazelnut oat chocolate cake

hazelnut oat chocolate cake

My sister-in-law and her wife are getting married today! If that sentence doesn’t make much sense, it’s because the world hasn’t made much sense for years, but it’s starting to look a lot more sensible here in New Jersey. Christy and Danni were civil-unioned on this date six years ago, and today they’re getting married married. I’m so happy for them and proud of them, and I’m so happy my boys get a chance to stand up with them at their wedding. They are a perfect example of two remarkable people who make a remarkable couple. Danni is a set-builder, and Christy is a photographer and a teacher and a poet, and it’s always seemed to me that they have made their lives, they have made their life together. They have a picture of how their life could be, and they use their great energy and resourcefulness to make it that way, and to keep it that way. They use their enviable cheerfulness and passion to set their lives aglow, to capture all the beautiful moments, and they use their generosity to share it all with their friends and family. Anyone who is married will tell you that as well as bringing joy and comfort, marriage takes a lot of work, and Christy and Danni make the work look like fun. It makes so much sense for them to be together, just as it makes sense that any two people in love should be married if they want to, and it’s a beautiful thing to see the world shifting in this direction. It feels like a real triumph, to stand up to bullies like Chris Christie and anyone else who operates out of hate and fear. Today is a joyful day, a beautiful golden autumn day, to share love and to celebrate the fact that sometimes the world does change for the better.

The other day, Malcolm looked at me very seriously and said, “Mom, you make too many cakes.” And he’s right, I probably do. (I have one in the oven now!) But it’s so comforting to make them, and they’re so nice to eat on dark and icy October mornings and evenings. Hazelnut and chocolate is an obviously delicious combination. I combined it, here with some oats and spices, to make a sort of top-of-the-coffeecake cake. It’s got a crumbly consistency and a nice earthy spicy flavor.

Here’s The Turtles with Happy Together

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