I'm writing this during one of the heavy rains we've received lately. The trees are whipping back and forth in the wind. Steady steams of water are spilling from the gutters. The thermometer is stuck in the lower 50s. And, for the first time since the rainy season began, there's standing water in the back yard. The neighbors' cat, who seems to prefer me to his owners, is sitting under my scrawny apricot tree, which offers no protection from the downpour. He knows he can't come in (I have a cockatoo who has free run of most of the house) and he has never tried to come in, but he's sitting there, nonetheless, giving me that mournful, "let me in" look. Tossing out a handful of cat food seems to help, and he eats most of it before disappearing under the shrubs. It's all bit too depressing to leave the house before my scheduled afternoon appointments. There are no DVDs to watch, and I'm a little too antsy to read or nap. What I want to do is cook. That's usually the feeling that comes over me when the weather changes. The oven, off for most of the time when the thermometer raced past 100 degrees, can't get enough use. But what should I cook? The refrigerator is already filled with cooked pumpkin and soup, most of which is headed for the freezer. I had a few pumpkin seeds left over from a weekend pumpkin-carving contest, so those made it into the oven. But that was too easy. I want something a little more comforting and a little more complex. Maybe something to bake. But the pantry's empty, so it's back to the computer and daydreams of what I could be cooking. This happens a great deal with me. I'll leaf through a cookbook, trying to figure out if a balsamic reduction on a pepper-crusted rib-eye sounds too sweet (yes) or what I'd serve with a Fennel, Taleggio and Cardamom Tart (a watercress salad). My daydreams are cut short by the need to dash off to that appointment and run a few errands, despite the rain. Before I know it, though, the afternoon is gone. All I have time to make before my ballroom dance class is a quick salad using some pre-washed greens and a dressing I'd made the day before. The toasted pumpkin seeds make a nice garnish. It's simple but satisfying, though images of that fennel tart linger with every bite. Some days are like that. Everything you want to do gets sidetracked by what has to be done. Then the following day is filled with cooking a multi-course feast, juggling pots, pans and food processors, not word processors. The varied recipe of what we do and what we accomplish is what keeps things interesting. Maybe some day I'll even get to try that Fennel, Taleggio and Cardamom Tart.