I walk to the garden past hedges heavy with fragrant with wild roses and awash with cow parsley. Blackbirds, wrens, robins and song thrushes fill the air with glorious song. The early morning sun catches glittering drops of dew suspended in fragile spiderwebs turning grass into a field of diamonds. A walk of happiness to the garden to gather rhubarb.
This Rhubarb cake is one you make with pleasurable ease. The tactile pleasure of combining the crumble by hand. The lemony perfume of adding the sumac. The sharp tang of grating the lemon into brown sugar then rubbing the zest through the sugar with your finger tips. A whip of eggs. An easy pour of melted butter. A gently folding of flour and a delicate hand with the rhubarb. All is happiness in this hour.
This is a cake that sits often under a glass dome in my kitchen. As the season changes the cake takes on a different persona. Sometimes chopped pears with a dash of almond flavouring. The stone fruit comes into season I add peaches, apricots or deep purple plums and serve the cake with whipped cream. Apples and cinnamon cake generously presented with a wedge of crumbly wedge of old cheddar cheese; the flavour of autumn.
“Happiness . . . not in another place, but this place, not for another hour, but this hour.” (Walt Whitman)
This rich,dense, spectacularly chocolate cake is my absolute favourite of all cakes. It has a delicate moist crumb and the dream-like chocolate buttercream frosting stays light and fluffy to the very last slice . This is the cake I make for any and every occasion.
For every day snacking I make it as a one layer cake or loaf cake. You can double the recipe for a two layer cake or a sheet cake. I have made a magnificent three layer birthday cake using this recipe. Baking is a science and one can not always double a recipe successfully. This sweetheart of a cake does allow you to double the ingredients ( but no further). For a three layer cake I bake a double cake and then the single cake. All this belies that fact that it is incredibly easy to make.
This most chocolate of cakes uses unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder in the cake and the frosting. It has a smoother, more mellow flavour than cocoa but you can use either. Buttermilk adds a suggestion of tangy flavour and a small amount of coffee brings a deeper note of richness to the cake. If you don’t have a mixer you a generous sized whip will do the trick. The icing does require a mixer so the chocolate glaze would be the answer.
The recipe for my favourite chocolate cake, fluffy icing and chocolate glaze can be found in the kitchen of
I have been rather casual about planting sweet peas. I plant the seeds directly into the garden a week or so after the last frost. It is a bit of a hit and miss affair. Some seeds don’t germinate and others suffer an early death as insects and birds enjoy their oh so tender leaves. I thought of my Grandfather and how he would start has plants indoors. He didn’t have a lot of space and spring in Northern Saskatchewan is one of bitter cold and frequently snow. Growing plants indoors was a challenge.
I bought the Cuthbertson sweet peas. They promised me heavenly fragrance and flowers the colours of dreams. I nicked the hard coating of the seeds. All 68 of them. I mixed the potting soil. I planted the seeds and calmly, quietly and patiently I waited for them to sprout. The first sight of a tiny green shoot was pure joy. I was following my grandfather’s footsteps.
This is the zen of garden. It is not always perfect but these past two years have required one to remain calm and take the happiness each day as it is given.
In Italy the basic crostata is made with a thick layer of good jam, preferably homemade, sandwiched between the bottom crust and a lattice top. Summer is a delicious season for crostatas. One can use fresh fruit cooked down a bit with sugar to make a quick jam. Almost any fruit, fresh or frozen, from strawberries, peaches and blueberries to figs can be used for the fillings. The jam for the filling can be stored in an airtight container for up to two 2 weeks. I like to make the pastry the day before and refrigerate it overnight night. This is a very accommodating recipe. A joy to make. The perfect dessert.
A wind like wolves prowling across the fields. Growling at windows and doors. Snarling down the fireplace chimney. The kind of rainy, dark, dismal day that cried out for a kitchen perfumed with the fragrance of exotic spices. A cake! A cake to be consumed still warm from the oven. A cake with a bold presence. A cake to keep the wolf from the door.
When I lived in Amsterdam I shopped daily at the Albert Cupt Street Market. And every day I would stop at a near by cafe to enjoy coffee with a slice of Apple Cinnamon Cardamon Cake, and watch boats travelling the canals. I’ve adapted this recipe from Luthra Vedika’s cookbook “52 Weeks, 52 Sweets”. It’s a delightfully easy cake to make. The streusel topping is crunchy, rich and flavoured with cinnamon and cardamon. You hand -mix the cake batter in one bowl. Fold in a generous amount of chopped apples and top it with the streusel
This cake is divine warm from the oven. It’s tricky. It can be done if you let the cake cool for a few minutes then run a knife around the edges to loosen it, unmold it from the pan and slide it on to a plate. Or let your cake come to room temperature for serving. Be brave – it’s your call. You’ll serve a cake that will keep the wolves from the door.
It was a cashmere cardigan. Rose petal pink. A sweater with an important provenance. It had belonged to my daughter and now it showed my years of affectionate wearing. The elbows worn and thread bare. I had darned it several times attempting to matching the wool but it was now beyond redemption.
I was taught to make repairs on clothes as invisible as possible. It was not going to be easy to match this colour and make a comfortable repair on the sleeve of the sweater. A bolder move was called for. I searched through my collection of left-over sewing fabrics and found enough silk to make two large patches.
Once the fabric was basted in place I sewed around the edge of the fabric. I chose a deep pink embroidery thread using a loose running stitch. I deliberately emphasized this as “repair” work. Not sloppy work but a labour of love. One should proudly wear beloved garments that have been repaired to continue to give warmth and happy memories.
Before you discard clothing that can be repaired try your hand at mending. If you first attempt is not perfect you haven’t destroyed something you were going to discard. It is not expensive to gather the supplies you require. Needles and thread from a Dollar store. And the mother-lode for material – a thrift shop. Scarves, men’s shirts and blouses give you enough usable material for patching. You don’t require a sewing machine – just your imagination,
“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.”
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.