APRIL BIRTHDAY IN PARIS

It was  early when I returned from shopping the market at the end of my street.  My basket was filled with two day old eggs (the best for baking), cream, chocolate and flowers.  Purple irises with deep golden throats.  The colours of spring.
The note was hanging from a red ribbon fastened to the door of my little house in Paris.
Place Émile-Goudeau,  11:59 p.m.  April 10th.  Bring cake.   (The Tin Man)

Tinny knows I spend April in Paris.  And that on April l0th I will be in my kitchen baking layers of delicate almond meringue in the La Cornue stove.    Filling the layers with espresso flavoured custard and topping the creation with chocolate ganache and pillows of whipped cream.

This creation  – this Dacquoise cake  must be started early in the day.   I whip the egg whites and sugar into shiny peaks then gently, every so gently fold in the crushed almonds.    While the layers are baking I make the  custard cream and tuck it into the refrigerator to thicken.  I will spread the custard cream carefully on the delicate meringue  layers . Next the ganache.   I chop dark chocolate into fine pieces and stir in the boiling cream.    It will rest, too.  It must be just the right thickness to enrobe the cake in all its magnificent glory.      The cake will rest  – until midnight.

Place Émile-Goudeau.  Trust The Tin Man to plan a birthday celebration in this unusual setting.   On Theadora’s favorite park bench. With her favorite cake,  and of course with our favorite tipple –  champagne.

Happy Birthday  darling Theadora.

 

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HUMMINGBIRD CAKE . . . hums to a new tune.

This cinnamon scented layer cake.    This  dense cake of banana and pineapple.  This spice cake with sumptuous cream cheese icing.  This Humming Bird cake with retro origins has become the favorite of all cake recipes on MRS. BUTTERFINGERS.

It’s a joy to make.      It doesn’t require a stand mixer.    Just two mixing bowls, some very ripe bananas, pineapple and the usual suspects when making a cake.   I’ve made  some changes to the recipe.   The most important one is the pineapple.  I’ve replaced the crushed pineapple with chopped pineapple tidbits.  The quality of the pineapple pieces is superior to crushed pineapple.   Now when you nibble your way through a gorgeous slice of Hummingbird  cake you encounter brilliant bursts of pineapple flavour.

Tuck this recipe for HUMMINGBIRD CAKE into your apron pocket.  It’s the perfect cake for the cottage.  It’s large enough for big family gatherings.  And best of all its wonderful goodness  stays fresh for the several days.

MRS.BUTTERFINGERS has the new, improved and slightly changed recipe.

 

I READ TO LIVE

Can you remember when you were four years old?    Some of the children at Froggy Pad Day Care are four years old.  Some are younger.  Some are older.  Some need to be read to.  Others can read.    The postcards from Mr. Nobody are important to every single child.

I remember my fourth birthday  gift.   A school bag, red plaid edged in brown leather.  With a big strap to go round my neck.  With flapped pockets closed tight by shiny buckles.  With pockets where I  store treasures.   My Pinocchio book.  Pine cones I hold close to smell the forest.  A tiny pink stone.

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My Mother reads to me.   From thick pages close printed with tiny letters.  From books  with dark covers smelling of  leather that captures and holds the flavours of the book.  These books have no pictures.

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”  Her voice became David Copperfield.  The words tumbled into my mind where I would turn them over not always understanding, not caring, simply lost in the joy of  hearing the words.

More than anything else I wanted to read those books.  Thick, fat books without pictures.   Books with  close square  print holding secret stories.

“When can I read?”

“When you are six.  When you go to school”

“But I will be old when I’m six.  With white hair”.

I am six.  I go to  Cottage School.  Two rooms, one up one down.    The school smells of  wooden desks deep carved with initials.  The desks have circular openings that hold bottled ink.  Mine is empty.  I am not old enough to use a pen.  I write with a thick, broad, flat pencil.    The black boards are gray with old chalk.  There’s a map of the world so enormous it covers an entire wall.   I am going to learn to read.   I am given a book  words worn thin by countless eyes.  DICK AND JANE.

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I am six.  I am furious.

I tell my mother “I am NEVER going back to school.   Nobody says “Look  Jane look, look.  See Dick.  see see, see Dick” .  That’s not a real book! Where are the words from The Old Curiosity Shop,   Oliver Twist? The words from Gulliver’s Travels and A Christmas Carol?  Where are the words from your books?”

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I am more than six.  I am a compulsive reader.  I read the backs of cereal boxes at the breakfast table.  The fine print in advertisements standing in line at the grocery store.  I cannot pass a bookstore even  when the books are in another language.  My silver memory box holds library cards from Edinburgh,  Amsterdam, Calgary, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver.  My oldest card, dated 1941, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan,  the place where it all began.

This holding a book in my hands.  The feel of the pages.  The smell of the ink.

This cadence of the prose.

This losing of one’s self to another place and time.

This reading of the beautifully written words.

This utter delight of being able to live a thousand lives.

I read in order to live.

SEND A POST CARD FROM MR. NOBODY . . . To Froggy Pad Daycare

There is an enchanted house  on the top of a very long hill.  Tall trees sway and sigh and stand guard.   The garden has a small wooden house and a small wooden bridge.   The children have delicious adventures,  play games, sing songs and listen to stories read from a magic book.  The enchanted house is called Froggy Pad.  It is a happy place where children stay while their Mummies and Daddies go to a place called Work.

Everyone is very polite, and so very well behaved at Froggy Pad.  Occasionally a hat goes missing.  The crayons are tossed out of boxes.  Milk is spilt.    Who did it?  Nobody.  It was Mr. Nobody.  A mischievous sprite.   Lately it has been very quiet at Froggy Pad.   No one looses their mittens.   Books have not gone missing.    In fact it has been absolutely boring at Froggy Pad.  That is until the other day a card came in the mail.  It was from Mr. Nobody.  He had gone walkabout.  Traveling.  Visiting friends far away.  Mr. Nobody had taken his mischief and disappeared.

The children missed his games. They were just a little sad until the post card arrive.  Now each day they watch with great anticipation for the mailman.    If you would like to play Mr. Nobody send a card to:  Froggy Pad Group Daycare,   4367 Ruth Crescent,     North Vancouver, B.C. Canada  V7K 2N1

 

EXTINGUISH MY EYES, I’LL GO ON SEEING YOU

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Extinguish my eyes, I’ll go on seeing you.

Seal my ears, I’ll go on hearing you.

And without feet, I can make my way to you.

With out a mouth I can swear your name.

Break off my arms, I’ll take hold of you

with my heart as with a hand.

Stop my heart, and my brain will start to beat.

And if you consume my brain with fire

I’ll feel your burn in every drop of blood.

 

(from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke)

 

THE VALENTINE ROSES THAT CHANGED A LIFE. Helen Stanbrook, where are you?

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This is story I republish every year when Valentine day approaches.   I am hoping one of the friends in this blog will read it and we will reconnect.  Helen Stanbrook,  I have been searching for you for years.

About a million February’s ago I was making plans for a truly splendid Valentine’s Day.  I had recently finished a script for a documentary film.  I had been paid extremely well  and wanted to celebrate this so romantic day in a special manner.

I thought about the loves of my life.  The important people in it.  What they meant to me.  There were several woman who were close friends but had moved to other cities.    Theirs was always the sympathetic ear. The helping hand.  The strong, stand by me attitude.  But they were no longer in my life.  Distance plays havoc with friendships.

I knew that some my friends did not have “significant others” in their lives, and  one friend struggled with her marriage.    I picked up the phone and ordered a dozen red roses to be sent to each of my four  friends.    I was very specific about how they were to be  delivered.  In a long florist box tied with an enormous ribbon.  And they were to be delivered the day before Valentine Day’s.  I wanted my friends to wake-up on that day to a room fragrant with roses.

I received happy thank-you notes but it was not until three years later did I discover just how much  the roses meant to one of my friends .  Over the years I saw her steadily gaining weight.  By the time she moved away she was more than 100 pounds overweight.

 A few years later I received a call from this friend.  She was in town briefly.  Would I meet her for a drink at her hotel?  I arrived early, sipped my wine watching for the friend I had not seen for years.  A tall,  gorgeous blond woman strode into the room.  Heads turned.  Admiring glances from men.  It was my friend.

This was her story.  When she received the roses she knew she had to change her life.  She told me that  of all her friends I was the only one who never suggested  she should loose weight.  She  said she knew that I expected one day she would do it – when the time was right.  She was in an emotionally abusive marriage.  On that Valentine’s day she started her program for weight loss.  As the pounds dropped away she became stronger and more confident.  Her abusive husband, unable to control this new woman, left her.    My friend got her life back.

 As we travel through life we have no concept of what a simple act of kindness can do.   We have a responsibility to care about our fellow man.   Perhaps this Valentine’s day one can send roses to their elderly neighbor.   Share your planned romantic dinner with your single friends.  Send cards telling your friends how important they are to you.

From the bottom of my heart a happy Valentine’s day to all who read my blog.

THE OUTRAGEOUS OATMEAL COOKIE . . . WITH CHOCOLATE CHUNKS, NUTS AND DRIED CHERRIES

There are those days when you want to bite into an oatmeal cookie that’s a little over the top.   A  superlative chewy cookie with just the right amount of  old fashioned rolled oats, nuts, chocolate and fruit.  A cookie with deep molasses flavor, light and crisp on the outside and chewy, dense and soft in the center. A cookie of such divine decadence that just one cookie is simply not enough.  This may just be the ultimate, outrageous oatmeal cookie.

This is an oatmeal cookie recipe you can claim as your own.  Substitute pecans or hazelnuts for the walnuts or dried cranberries for the cherries.    Quick oats can be substituted for the old-fashion oats, but they will yield a cookie with slightly less chew.   Other than the options be sure to follow the remaining ingredients to the letter.  It is the extra moisture found in brown sugar and the combination of baking powder and baking soda that produces a cookie  that is thin,  light and crisp on the outside, and chewy in the middle.  These cookies really spread so be sure to allow 2 to 2 1/2 inches between cookies.

MRSBUTTERFINGERS has the recipe.  Bon Appetit dear friends.