C.S. LEWIS AND HOW TO PULL YOUR SELF TOGETHER IN THE TIME OF COVID

In 1948 C.S. Lewis wrote the following words.

“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

A FRANK CONVERSATION WITH OSWALD GENTLEMAN RABBIT.

I woke this morning to a scattering of snow. Just enough to catch the heavy boughs of the cedar next to my patio. Just enough to catch and hold the footprints of Oswald Gentleman Rabbit. The cedar bush is Oswald’s burrow. Oswald was home and preparing for the Winter Solstice.

I dusted the drifted snow off the Victorian bed. It has become a favourite place for my friend Oswald to take the occasional naps. Oswald often joins me on this secluded patio. In the summertime it is a place to enjoy a glass of wine and good conversations. This morning it is steaming coffee and mince tarts.

“We were promised two billion trees. 8.5 million just isn’t good enough”. Oswald is no rabbit to mince words. “30 millions trees were to be planted this year. Do the math!” Oswald stomped back and forth aggravating the pristine snow . “Those horrific mud slides on the highways. People died. We rabbits couldn’t plant enough trees.”

Oswald tided his rumpled whiskers. Straightened his large rabbit ears. Calmed his ruffled fur. “Tomorrow all rabbits will celebrate the solstice. The war has just begun. We shall fight them on the hills . . .”

“Oswald, did you just quote Winston Churchill?”

“Well, yes. We were good friends. Those gardens at Chartwell – work of rabbits, of course.”

Dear friends, once again the story of the rabbits Winter Solstice party. Read it again and believe in miracles.

HOW OSWALD, GENTLEMAN RABBIT CELEBRATES THE WINTER SOLSTICE AND TRIES TO SAVE THE WORLD ONE TREE AT A TIME. A fairy tale for adults who care.

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There are tales told over and over again.  Repeated from one generation to the next.    Every year on December 21st, the shortest day of the year,  the tale of Oswald gentleman rabbit, is recounted to young rabbits.  Their noses quiver and their ears wiggle in anticipation.  It is the story of Oswald the rabbit, who wore a magic coat.  A coat that allowed him to travel anywhere in the blink of an eye.  A coat with bottomless pockets he could fill with the universe.   A coat that  allowed him to become a human for a day.

And so the tale begins.

Oswald, gentleman rabbit, stamped the snow off his rather generous feet.  Brushed the ice crystals from his whiskers.   Shook the snow off his magic coat.   Everything was in place for the grand party.  Rabbits the world over would soon arrive at his burrow to celebrate the winter solstice.

Oswald’s ancient burrow was immense.  Deep, deep beneath the earth  the rooms in the burrow were so large one alone could hold more that a thousand rabbits.  Massive,  thick, gnarled  tree roots formed the ceilings.  Fireflies became living chandeliers  chasing away the darkness.

Oswald  reached deep into the pocket of his magic coat and began to pull out evergreen trees. Hundreds and hundreds of trees.   The fragrant smell of cedar and fir, spruce and pine enveloped the room.  The tree roots were wrapped in burlap tied round with holly and ivy vines.  Every year he filled the largest room in the burrow with the trees of Christmas.  Trees of every size circled the room.  Touched the ceiling.  Sparkling and glittering with diamonds of snow.  An indoor forest to celebrate the winter solstice.

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Oswald was very particular about the menu for his Winter Solstice Dinner.    He shopped for the finest delicacies in London.  In the rush of Christmas no one noticed the gentleman with  rather large ears wearing an elaborate red coat. filling basket after basket with Christmas delicacies.  Back  in the enormous kitchen of the burrow,  Oswald reached into the pockets of his magic coat  and drew out hamper after hamper marked F & M – Fortnum and Mason.

Tonight the rabbit guests would dine on magnificent vegetable patés,  Terrines of leeks and spinach,  Carrot and ginger puddings and salads of delicate butter lettuce and dandelion greens.   There would be bottles and bottles of ginger beer, elderberry wine and raspberry cordial to celebrate this the longest night of the year.  Rabbits are fond of nibbling on tasty bits of this and that.  Scattered through the dining hall were generous platters of ruby-red radishes and emerald-green asparagus, golden persimmons and scarlet pomegranates.

It is a little know fact that rabbits have a very sweet tooth.  Oswald planned on ending  the Solstice feast  with the very finest,  sweetest treasures from his favorite shop in Paris.   He walked along the Champ-Elysées  every inch the flâneur in his imposing red coat.   Ladurée, in all its elegance of  marble display  counters,  enveloped him in sweetness.   From pale green boxes he would fill crystal bowls with sublime treats.    Chocolate truffles and tiny lemon tarts,  raspberry macarons and St-Honoré cakes.    It would be a delicious ending to the shortest day of the year.

Later, much later.  When the hundreds and hundreds of  plates were empty. When the last little crumb of pastry was nibbled away,  silence filled the room.   The  well fed rabbits settled back on their golden chairs in anticipation of what was to follow.

From the top most branch of the tallest tree in the cavernous room came a glorious sound.   A single bird singing.     A lark ascending.  The tiny bird sang of peace,  compassion and understanding.   One by one from  surrounding trees birds joined in song.  Louder and louder.    A song  swooping, soaring, climbing higher and higher until the very earth around the burrow vibrated with its magnificence.

Midnight.  The fireflies folded their lighted wings and disappeared into the winter night.   Oswald donned  his magic coat.   He gathered into its bottomless pockets the forest of trees that had decorated the dining hall.  He left the burrow to travel through the dark, cold night.  He would plant these trees on struggling  clear-cut   hills.  On burnt, scorched  unyielding ground. On barren boulevards where anything green and growing struggled to survive  the killing breath of city pollution.

The Solstice night was ending when he  returned to his burrow.  Oswald’s  gift to the world was so simple, so unassuming when dawn broke  those who lived above the burrow passed by the newly planted trees.  Unaware.   Blind to their presence.  Thinking  they had always been there.  Taking for granted these trees so necessary for their living, breathing planet.

Rabbits have the stewardship of all growing things.  An enormous responsibility  in a world where many  deny  and disbelieve what is  happening to our changing planet.  Perhaps you don’t believe in fairy tales.  Than tell me this.    How do you know  that group of  young people planting trees on that clear cut hill  are not rabbits wearing magic coats?

 

THE DOLL HOUSE WHO FOUND CHRISTMAS

Once upon a time. The best Christmas stories, with the happiest endings, always start with once upon a time.

Once upon a time there was a doll house. A doll house covered with forgetfulness. Empty of happiness. Forsaken and unloved. The doll house needed someone to care for it again. As this is a once upon a time story the house’s wish came true, not only at Christmas but every day of the year.

The doll house was not packed away with the Christmas decorations. It sat high and proud on its own table. A cow costume clad for Halloween welcomes you at the front door. Japanese pillow dolls dream the nights away. A benevolent Buddha stands watch. Everyone is welcome. It is lovely to revisit past Christmas stories. THE FORGOTTEN DOLL HOUSE is one of my favourites.

THE FORGOTTEN DOLL HOUSE . . . a Christmas tale of rejuvenation and delight.

The doll house had been lovingly built.  It was made of wood.  It had doors that would open and shut.  Fancy trim on the shingle roof.  Even a bow window and a front porch.  But it had fallen on hard times. And  as it is in the adult world the house was deemed “not good enough”.   The house had been replaced by a larger more spectacular mansion.  It was made of plastic, but it had a hot tub and a stair case and a chandelier in the front hall.  After all even in the doll world one must keep up appearances.

The contents were thought to be shabby.  The wall paper dated.  The pictures on the wall old-fashioned. No one wanted a hand-made wooden doll house.    The house was stored in the darkest, dreariest, farthermost corner of the garage and forgotten.  Over the years it gathered neglect and dreary dust.

The forgotten doll house sat quietly in the dark corner and remembered.   It thought of the many dolls who it made it their home.  They had tea parties and sleep-overs.    Entertainment for visiting doll friends.  The house  filled with giggles and joyful delight.  Happy memories of by gone days.  Then one day the house was taken from its  dark hiding place and put on a display in a shop that welcomed cast off toys. Time passed.   No one was interested in the shabby doll house.   The lonely house thought of its broken shutter.  The peeling wallpaper.  The scratches, dents and missing pieces.    “No one will want me.  No one will buy me. No one will love me.”

There are those who see hidden beauty in imperfection.   Who search for the unusual, the unexpected.  Who see potential where others pass by.   When she saw the doll house she thought “how absolutely wonderful”.    It just needed a little loving care; some carpentry work, lots of snow white paint and a exotic group of inhabitants.  It would be the perfect Christmas house.

The roof was repaired.  The shutters replaced.  Every inch of the house was painted the dazzling white of freshly fallen snow.  Tiny diamond bright lights adorned the house, inside and out.    The windows were cleaned.    And the house even had a chandelier.

The invited guests gathered for a Christmas party.  The dolls house was filled with excited guests.

The conversation was brilliant.

The Christmas party continued far into the night.

It was adults who lingered long.  Peering into the rooms.  Recognizing nostalgic and familiar toys from the past.  They  were swept up in the magic of this little house.    The house gave a sigh of contentment  for it was not to be forgotten.  Not to be boxed and put away for another Christmas.  It would have its place in this new home.  To be enjoyed everyday by the very young and the young at heart.  The doll house would live happily ever after.

Writer’s Notes:  I found the sadly neglected doll house in the Thrift Shop in  Ladner Village.  It is an amazing experience –  this shopping at the Delta Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop.  Everyone is a volunteer and all moneys raised support the Delta Hospital.    I am proud to be a  member of this amazing organization.

RESCUING THE CHRISTMAS WREATH RAVISHED BY WEATHER

Fragile blossoms rain faded. Fragile flowers wind crumbled. The delicate wreath struggling in the savage weather. Hydrangea blooms are not made for this. I salvaged the wreath. Hung it to dry. New, dried flowers in faded bruised blues and purples to the rescue. A fine silk ribbon to adorn. A new place to hang.

It is not in my nature to discard what can be saved. The existence of this wreath began in early spring. Hydrangea bushes heavy with blossoms charmed their way through summer. Autumn and as the flowers changed colour I began to cut and hang the heads to dry. A wreath months in the making now hangs above a treasured nativity scene.

A FRESH CHRISTMAS WREATH . . . yours to make in just an hour.

December 1st. Day one of my slow Christmas.

Every year I make the wreath that adorns our front door. This is the second wreath. The first wreath was fashioned from dried hydrangea blossoms. I cut them in the late fall when cool temperatures turn the vivid blues to delicate, faded colours. The hydrangea wreath was hung. Then destruction in the form of atmospheric rivers of rain flooded south western British Columbia. We escaped the flooding but the humidity and the rain destroyed my wreath.

Our home is surrounded by various cedars. Tall trees march along side the drive way. A very large low growing cedar is just outside the patio door. This cedar bush is also home to the famous “Oswald Gentleman Rabbit” and his various relatives, and this is where I found my branches. To make this wreath you need a metal ring (from a dollar store), light wire, twine, any type of local greens, a decorative vine of berries (dollar store) and pruning shears for trimming the branches to size.

There’s CD playing in the background. It’s Charlie Brown’s iconic Christmas music. Perfect for the day one of slow Christmas. Weave the wire back and forth on the wreath form.
Starting in the inside of the wreath poke the branches through continuing always in the same direction.
Do the same with the outside ring and then secure the branches firmly with the twine. You can tuck smaller branches here and there to even the look of the wreath.
Add the finishing touch. I used a rope of berries and fastened them to the wreath. Ribbon, Christmas balls, fresh or artificial flowers all look wonderful. Once you have woven the wire to make your wreath base it should take you about an hour to create your own very personal wreath.
Now photograph your beautiful wreath and share it with your friends and family. Happy day one of your slow Christmas, cheers Virginia.

EASY ONE BOWL WONDER CAKE . . . WALNUT BUTTER CAKE WITH MAPLE BUTTER FROSTING

Simple and extremely quick to make!

This gloriously simple cake can be made with the usual pantry items,  a good sized bowl and a whisk – if that is your desire.    Or you can whip it up with  hand held electric beaters or a stand mixer.  The results are a tender, butter-rich, nutty cake.  Top it with a generous swipe of frosting and you’ve just swanned your way to creating a delectable, delicious, no stress cake.

I volunteer at our hospital thrift shop in the village of Ladner, British Columbia. It’s a busy operation and our morning tea break is appreciated.    I call it The Fellowship of cookies , cake bakers and avid readers of books.  The table is always graced with volunteers home baked goodies.  The  discussions are frequently about food in general and baking in great detail.  Recipes are shared and stored in a three ring binder.   This very personal cook book is kept in the tea room for anyone looking for baking inspiration.

The women I work with are mostly retired.  They donate a great deal of time and energy to their volunteer work.  They love to bake but appreciate recipes that that don’t require a lot of prep time.  Some prefer recipes that are not too complicated or require too many ingredients.  And, they don’t want to spend a lot of time shopping for ingredients that are difficult to find. 

An easy one bowl cake recipe means less time is spent mixing the ingredients and less time in clean up.   Make this recipe once and it will be yours forever.  The chopped walnuts are toasted in the butter then added to the eggs, sugar and sour cream and vanilla and whisked  until well combined. You add the flour, baking powder and soda and whisk to combine and pour into your cake pan.  You can add optional flavours such as instant espresso powder or cardamon. I also bakes beautifully in a loaf pan or double the recipe and bake in a  Bundt pan.

 MRS.BUTTERFINGERS has the printable recipes for these cakes.  Bon Appetit dear friends.

SURPRISED BY JOY . . . a Siberian cat becomes part of our life

It began with a phone call from a dear friend. Would we foster a senior cat until arrangements could be made? Her mother was ill and could no longer care for her beloved companion of eight years . We were happy to have a cat in our home once again.

Her name is Pepper. The biggest, most beautiful, magnificent and angriest of cats stepped our of her carrier into our dear, sweet home. This was her second foster home and we were told she could be difficult. Pepper was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reincarnated as a cat. By day she snarled and growled, scratched,slashed and bit and challenged anyone who dared to pat her. But at night she became a different cat and snuggled close to me. She purred, nuzzled into me and covered my fingers with cat kisses as I stroked her silky fur, and at night Pepper slept at the foot of my bed.

The weeks passed. She seemed to improve. She asked for more attention. But she couldn’t be trusted not to strike out at you. I Googled SIBERIAN CATS. We needed more information to help us understand Pepper. In the domestic cat world Siberian cats are considered the largest cat (18 to 22 pounds). The most intelligent of all domestic cats. They are cats that require stimulation, entertainment, play. They dislike being left alone for any length of time. They demand respect. They mature slowly remaining kitten like for five years and living up to 18 or 20 years. They enjoy being around people, children. dogs and other cats. They frequently mate for life. They are intensely loyal to their owners.

I had my answer. Pepper had been taken away from the person she loved. She was remaining loyal to her. In her foster home from necessity Pepper was left alone all day. She didn’t have an opportunity to bond and replace her loss. We asked Pepper’s owner that we become the forever people in her life.

It has been seven months of Pepper understanding us and we in turn understanding her. We know she requires respect. She doesn’t like to be disturbed when she is sleeping, and she doesn’t always want pats. She signals her wishes with a twitch of her ears or a turning of her head. We are very careful to be mindful of her and she in turns watches us. We are getting to know each other.

Pepper has become entertaining, loving and quite funny.. She likes to play and expects us to participate with her. She is respectful of us. She asks permission to sit on our laps or jump on my bed. Entering a room Pepper comes to each of us and acknowledges our presence. She is no longer angry. We believe she is happy. And I am so happy we did not give up on her. She has surprised us with joy.

ALMOND COOKIES . . . wickedly wonderful classic Amarette Italian cookies.

An Amaretti cookie is a cookie with attitude. It is an elegant bite of crunchy, chewy wonderfulness. A cookie heady with the perfume of almonds, perfect with exactly the right amount of sweetness.

Amaretti cookies are definitely not your common, home-baked cookie one encounters in North America. This Italian confection dates as far back as the seventeen hundreds (1700’s), and is ancestor of the ubiquitous French macaron. It is a cookie equally at ease with a cup of coffee or tea or a glass of sparkling Prosecco.

Amaretti cookies have the same almond base and deliciously chewy texture of a French macaron, but unlike the macaron it is a snap to make. One simply whips up eggg whites, fold in sugar and ground almonds and rolls the morsels in sugar. There’s very much a Christmas feel about amarette cookies. They are so decadently, deliciously different.

Don’t wait for Christmas to make these cookies. They are a marriage made in heaven when you serve them with homemade ice cream and salted caramel sauce. My favorite bakery in Toronto, Bobbette & Bellle introduced me to these glorious cookies.

The printed recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.