I DIDN’T MAKE THE BED FOR YOU

 

There is nothing more wonderful then curling up in bed with a good book.  And when your bed is outside surrounded by  quiet green fields this is my idea of   paradise.     I  plundered the linen cupboard for everything French.   I wanted this to be a place where I could escape  for just a while.  A place of calmness.  A place where I could put aside for a brief time the uncertain realities of our present world.  I wasn’t expecting to find a rabbit who thought my bed was the perfect place for an afternoon nap.

We have a relationship with the rabbits.  Their burrow is under a large cedar hedge .   Through the years the hedge has grown in size and now it is very close to the patio.    It is not unusual to see  small bunnies noses pressed against the patio door looking into our home.

We love rabbit watching.  We have a rabbit who walks on his hind legs eating  the tops of high grass.  Another rabbit who eats only clover and ignores grass completely.     Then there is the rabbit  who likes to curl up in a basket beside by my outdoor bed. I have marvellous and rather esoteric conversations with him.   His name is Oswald, and he quite famous in the rabbit community.   I write about him in  A GLASS OF WINE AND CONVERSATIONS WITH A GENTLEMAN RABBIT.

This will be a summer of drifting through the days reading about exotic far away places.  There’s always pleasant work in the vegetable garden.  A place we also share with a tiny bunny.  Not by choice, but bunnies will be bunnies.      And I am hoping Oswald rabbit will join me on the patio again this summer.   A glass of wine and his take on world events would be most interesting.  Take care and be safe dear friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COOKING TUSCAN STYLE – PORK LOIN in the STYLE of PORCHETTA

 

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It’s late afternoon in a kitchen in a rambling stone farm house in Tuscany.   You’ve  gathered fennel, garlic, onions and rosemary from the garden.  There’s  a glass of crisp, cold sparkling Prosecco on the  counter.  You’re preparing dinner.  Arista  the traditional pork roast studded with garlic and rosemary and spit-roasted over hot coals.  Porchetta a nearly boneless whole suckling pig, rubbed with rosemary and stuffed with its own highly seasoned innards.

Tuscany is a wonderful dream.   How lovely to create this state of mind in your own kitchen.  This recipe for stuffed loin of pork has all the gorgeous flavours of these Tuscan dishes.   Put on your apron and you’re in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.    Click on PORK LOIN IN THE STYLE OF PORCHETTA  for this recipe I have adapted  from Mario Batali’s book Molto Italiano.

 

LILIES AND LICORICE . . fills the heart and calms the soul.

Early  morning.  I’ve gathered armfuls of  magnificent Casa Blanca Lilies,   Star-gazer Lilies,  and whispery, licorice scented fennel.

Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem fills the room with inspiring sound.        Introit et Kyrie  . . .  Offertoire . . . glorious music that fills one heart and calms the soul.  I plunge the lilies into glittering crystal vases.  They deserve nothing less.

Gorgeous, glamours lilies.

Agnus Dei

Exultation of  lilies.

Libera me

Joyous lilies.

Sanctus

The sweet perfume of fennel.

The intoxicating fragrance of garden fresh flowers.

Pie Jesu … Libera me … In paradisi.

In this moment I put aside these troubled time and journey to a place of peace and quiet.

 

TRAVEL SAFE. VISIT BOTSWANA AND MEET THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY

You don’t need a flight reservation.  You don’t need your passport.  You don’t need to pack your valise.    Make yourself a pot of tea.  A pot of red tea.  Make it properly.     Tea leaves added to a warm teapot.  Water that has just come to the boil.  Let it steep about five minutes.  Perhaps add a little honey to your cup.  Now  relax and enjoy armchair travel.

Several  years ago I read a slim book about an unusual woman who became the first lady private detective in Botswana.  I am always looking for well-written detective novels.  I collect them like pearls, for like pearls a well-written detective novel is something to treasure.  This slim book. The NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY, by Alexander McCall Smith, and all the  delightful books that followed, are not pearls, they are Botswana Diamonds.  They are not exactly detective novels, more like mysteries that happen in life.

Then I  discovered  another Botswana Diamond.  I found in the DVD section of our Ladner Library a TV series made from the novels.  It had appeared on HBO.  Was it possible to create the magic of the books?  I dared to hope and dream.    I was not disappointed.  The series captured  all and more of  every nuance, every bit of  the charm and sensitivity, and all the understated humour of the books.

Each night The Good Husband and I traveled to Botswana, and each night reluctantly returned to the West Coast and the rain forests.  Last night was the final program.  I suggested we could watch it again from the beginning. You always miss things first time around.  “We’ll see”,  said the good husband, as he poured himself a cup of bush tea and clicked on travel information to Botswana.  In these difficult times it is nice to dream.

These are the actors who created the poetry we watched evening after evening.

I would like you to meet Mma Ramotswe, Precious Ramotswe, the first lady detective in Botswana. (Jill Scott)

The very prim and proper Mma Makutsi,  Grace Makutsi, assistant private detective. (Anika Noni Rose)

Together Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi solve mysteries with style, grace and humour.

Mr. JLB Matekoni,  a mechanic magician and all around renaissance man. (Lucian Msamati)

BK, owner of the Last Chance Salon, hairdresser extraordinaire and sometime assistant to the lady detectives.(Desmond Dube)

Back to the books.  It is important you realize that The Ladies’ No. One Detective Agency is NOT simply detective fiction .  It’s a novel that takes you to Botswana, introduces you to characters you would want in your life, and a country you do not want to leave.

To my great joy Alexander McCall Smith continued to write many more books, and through the years I continued to travel to Botswana.   I’ve made many cups of bush tea  and read my way through the lives of people whom I would feel honoured to know.

Precious Ramotswe, the first lady private detective in Botswana.  Strong, intelligent, compassionate Precious.

Grace Makutsi, graduating  with a 97% average from secretarial college, refreshingly prim and proper.

Mr. JLB Matekoni, a renaissance man, a mechanic of magic abilities with motors and cars.

JB,  flamboyant hairdresser and owner of the Last Chance Salon, steadfast friend and sometimes accomplice to the lady detectives.

This as  not just a series of detective novels.  Don’t  presume it is simply “light reading”.  It is more than the sum of it’s parts.  It is about life with dignity and love.  There’s understated humour.  A great deal of wisdom.  Some unpleasant facets of life.  Most important the books contain all that is good, positive, respectful  and honourable about Botswana.

How can you not love books with titles like…

Tears of the Giraffe,

Morality for Girls

The Kalachari Typing School for Men

The Cupboard Full of Life

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

Blue Shoes and Happiness

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive

The Miracle at Speedy Motors

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

The Double Comfort Safari Club

I’ve just made myself a cup of bush tea and now I am reading another book in this rare and wonderfully gentle series about the first lady detective in Botswana, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party.  I can’t wait to see if Grace Makutsi finds true love.

Oh yes, my fellow tea lovers.  You must  drink bush tea.  Find it under the name Rooibos or Red Tea in any good tea shop.

A JELLY ROLL TO THE RESCUE

 

 

If there ever was a time we needed comfort food it is today.     Something sweet to sooth the soul and have you smiling with delight.  A jelly roll to the rescue.    What a delightful idea.  Bake a cake.   Spread jam on it and roll it up.  Easy, peasy.   The ingredients  are all there in your kitchen – eggs, sugar, flour, flavouring and jam.

A classic sponge cake is not difficult to make.  Simply carefully follow the instructions. The eggs must be a room temperature, or a little warmer, and then beaten with sugar for at least ten minutes, or until thickened, tripled in bulk and full of air. It requires no leavening other than the air that is beaten into the eggs.  Carefully fold in the flour being careful not to disturb the air bubbles too much.  Then spread into the prepared pan

Don’t over bake your cake.  It will not roll easily and will crack. Depending on your oven bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  ( I hesitate to suggest the 20 minutes  but your oven may be on the cool side.)

While your cake is baking sprinkle a clean dish towel with sugar.  As soon as you take it out of the oven lay the long edge of your pan on the towel  and turn out your cake.

Lift the pan off the cake.

Trim the edges of your cake and then peel off the paper.  Trimming the cake makes it easier to roll.

While the cake is still warm starting with the short end roll the cake  and lay it with the edge seam side down.  Let it cool thoroughly before unrolling and filling.  If you are apprehensive about rolling the cake use the towel to help you.   When the cake is cool carefully unroll the cake and towel.

Use any desired filling.  Jam, jelly, lemon curd, whipped cream.  Just be sure it spreads easily.  If the jam or jelly is a little thick heat it gently before spreading it on the cake.  Using a small strainer dust the cake with lots of icing sugar.  You can also frost the cake with your favourite frosting.

This recipe calls for superfine granulated sugar and pastry or cake flour.  If you don’t have these in your pantry it is easy to make them.  For superfine sugar put at least one and a half cups of granulated sugar into your food processor and process for a few seconds.  Not too long or you’ll end up with sugar powder.   Measure your sugar after you have processed it.   You can always find a use for extra  super fine sugar.

For pastry or cake flour do this.  Take one cup of flour and remove two tablespoons of flour.  Add two tablespoons of corn starch (corn flour) to the cup. I put two cups of this mixture through a sifter five  to six times.    From this take the required amount of flour for your recipe.    Set aside the extra cake flour for future use.

The happy little jelly roll recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

Bon Appetit dear friends.  Take care.  Stay safe.

 

 

 

 

RHUBARB UP-SIDE DOWN BROWN SUGAR CAKE . . . an easy to make spring dessert

 

This unprepossessing plant.    This new darling of avant-garde young chefs.  This wonderful rhubarb is the spectacular  upside-down topping on the most delicious of brown sugar cakes.

It is perfection on its own as a snacking cake or one could lavish it with whipped cream or crème fraíche.   Add a few very ripe strawberries and it would be a spectacular finish to a meal.

This is an easy recipe to put together.  You don’t use a stand mixer – just your favourite balloon whisk.    The cake stays moist and delectable for up to three days.  Simply keep it covered at room temperature.

This recipe calls for fresh rhubarb but you can also use frozen rhubarb.  Just be sure to allow time for your frozen rhubarb to defrost and drain (gently pressing on the stalks to help remove the moisture.

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April can be the cruellest of months but it gives us this tart-sweet vegetable that morphs into the most addictive of desserts.    It has been a wet spring this year and the rhubarb in my garden has responded with juicy red stalks and enormous umbrella sized leaves.    RHUBARB UPSIDE-DOWN BROWN SUGAR CAKE – bake it today.   The recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.    Bon Appetit dear friends.

(This recipe is from  Dorie Greenspan’s inspiring cookbook Baking Chez Moi.)

 

THE BICYCLE GHOSTS

This is a tale that should begin – once upon a time.  For this is a tale of mystery, magic and the unknown.

It was the bewitching hour.  Not quite day.  Not quite night.   Walking our country road I caught a glimpse of something lying on the verge.  A worn, sad looking bicycle.  Cast aside to rust away into the past.  I picked it up and carried it home

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Painted white and graced with a chic seat cover I imagined myself sailing down the road on the way to a great adventure.  But no matter how I tried I could not get the wheels to move or the brakes to unlock.

 Late that night when the moon was a silver thought high in the sky I heard the sound of bicycle wheels moving swiftly down the driveway and disappearing into the dark.  Morning came and the wayward bicycle was back outside my window.

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In the basket I found a neatly folded Paris newspaper.  The date October 31, 1939.   That night I again heard the whisper of wheels fading into the night. In the morning my mysterious bicycle was again outside the window.

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There was a rose in the basket.  It’s petals still fragrant and fresh with dew.  Beside the rose a ticket to the Louvre.  Two people had met.   Admiring the same painting.  Then lingering long –  reluctant to part.  He had given her a rose.

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And so it went.  Night after night there would be a whisper of wheels and each morning the bicycle would return and I would find  something from the past in my basket.

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A wine stained menu.  Hands reaching across the table.  Fingers touching.  Heads close together sharing whispered  thoughts and future secrets.

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She read to him from small, leather bound books found in old bookstores .  He loved the sound of her voice.    She would read until the darkness closed the words and disappeared into the night.

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Around her slender neck he fastened the velvet ribbon with a tiny cameo. A remembrance of a rainy day spent exploring the flea markets.

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 They listened to the medieval tale of tragic love as the music of Tristen and Isolde filled the Palis Garnier.    They lived in the moment.  They did not talk about the future.  They did not talk about the war.

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The morning I found the glasses and the empty wine bottle there was an air of finality about the contents of the basket.

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The next day a faded blue silk rose was fastened to the bicycle.  I knew the story was ending.

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There was a scrap of paper in the bottom of the basket. I read the words.

Au revoir mon ami.

Au revoir mon ami.

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Writers note:  Dear friends, There is a back story to this blog. The lovers really existed.  I was fortunate to have met them and asked that vital question “what did you do during the war?”.  You’ll find bits of their story in the comment section.

HOW TO SEW LAUNDRY DRAWSTRING BAGS FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS

The Delta Hospital Auxiliary  was asked to sew 100 laundry bags for health care workers.     These were  bags to go into the washing machine – contents and all.     The most readily available material was sheets.    A laundry bag is a large, roomy drawstring bag .   Sewing the rectangle is easy .  The tricky part can be sewing the channel for the drawstring.

One of the long sides of the bag  is sewn in the following manner.    From the top of the bag seam line measure down 3 inches from the top.  Sew to this point.  Leave a 3/4 inch gap then continue sewing the seam.  (do back stitches where you finish and then start this gap).  This gap is where you will insert the ties.

Press this seam open  and overcast the edges.

 

To make the casement that will contain the ties fold over the top raw edge 12-inch all around and press the fold in place.  Then fold over a further 2 1/2-inches evenly all around lining up the side seams.  Press.

Unfold the pressed casement and insert the two ends of the drawstring into the gap in the seam.  Tuck the drawstring into the top part of the casement and pin in place.  Fold the pressed casement down and machine stitch the bottom hem in place.  Watch you don’t sew the long ends of the draws string into the hem.

 

 

 

To machine sew  the folded top edge  give the ends of the ties a little tug.  This will ease the cords away from the top fold.    Do this occasionally  when you are stitching the seam to ensure you don’t catch the ties.  Top stitch the casement about 1/2-inch or so away from the fold.

Right side will look like this when finished.   Knot the tie ends together.

It was originally thought when using sheets we could utilize the finished  edge of the top sheet for the casement.  This could work on smaller drawstring bags but I found  it created too much bulk.    I will  eliminate that part of the sheet in future bag making.    Our Delta Hospital has requested an additional 200 bags.

 

 

SEWING PROTECTIVE CLOTH MASKS FOR HOSPITAL WORKERS

Dear, dear friends,

My blogging friend Gayle of GUSTAVANDGAYLE  posted  a blog about sewing protective cloth face masks for hospital workers.  There has not been a call for these masks where I live but they are urgently needed in  many areas of the United States and other countries.

If you have a sewing machine these masks are easily and quickly made.  They require  elastic and two layers of 100% tightly woven cotton.  The inside layer should be soft.  Comfortable to the face.  The material is washed in hot water and the highest dryer heat setting to shrink the fabric.  The completed masks are sanitized before being used.

I followed the instructions from SEWGOODGOODS (link below).  The instructions are CDC compliant approved patterns (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  I ran up a dozen in about  30 minutes.  I deviated slightly from the instructions by  first sewing the elastic in place with a strong double machine stitch.  You don’t want the elastic to pull off the mask.  If the request comes out for these masks I’ll be ready.

https://www.sewgoodgoods.org/face-mask-covid-19

Please take care of yourself and all you love.

Virginia.

 

 

LIGHT UP OUR WORLD . . . NOW!

My dear friends, my so very dear friends.

These are desperate times and our world is looking so dark and frightening .  Now is the time to shine light on the darkness.   Now is the time to show we are not afraid.   Now, right now, is the time to say we are standing strong together.

Defy this darkness.   Do it by shining a light in to the dark.  Please,  now, right now put a light in your  window.   In every window.   Any light.  A single candle.  A lamp.   Every Christmas light you own.  Then text, phone, e-mail a friend and ask them to do the same.  Ask them to call a friend.

I care so very much for you all.

Love   Virginia.