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

 

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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.

 

CHICKEN WITH MUSTARD AND RED PEPPER (a.k.a. Picnic Chicken) . . . a Paris classic . . . Poulet Grille a la Diable

 

The winter rain that falls in Paris comes down in silver threads,  and streets  glisten and reflect the light.   Moisture fogs the windows of cafés and bistros and turns them into welcoming beacons of comfort.

Down the street from my little house in Paris is a tiny bistro. The wooden chairs and the tiny black and white tiles on the floor show their age.    Decades of patrons have worn them to comfortable perfection The tables are close together. The menu is chalked on a blackboard.   It is where you want to be on a cold, damp, raining winter night.

The chilly night calls for something hot and fiery,  á la diable.   Diable is associated with anything hot and fiery. You will find various versions of this classic chicken in cafés and bistros all over Paris.   Chicken or meat seasoned with mustard and hot pepper then coated with bread-crumbs.

My recipe for CHICKEN WITH MUSTARD AND RED PEPPER is a riff on a recipe by Patricia Wells.  Her book, THE PARIS COOKBOOK.  To read or cook from it  is pure delight.   I use French Dijon and coarse-grain French Dijon, a whisper of cayenne pepper, a dusting of red pepper flakes .  It goes together quickly.  Almost before you finish singing La Marseillaise you  top it with a little butter and pop it in the oven and bake it (despite the name).     Pour yourself a glass of sauvignon blanc (it goes well with the chicken)  and voila!   That’s it.

Here’s the very, very best part of this recipe.  I think it tastes better the next day.    It is NOT left over chicken.    You can double or even triple the recipe.   Don’t be concerned about the amount of red pepper flakes and cayenne called for in the recipe.  For some wonderful and unexplained reason they become just a hint of spice.   This is the chicken recipe to serve again and again and call it your own.  Tweak the spices.  Add a little more of this.   A little less of that.  To go with the chicken I roast chunks of  Yukon Gold potatoes tossed in a glug of extra-virgin olive oil and a generous sprinkle of coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  This chicken recipe is known in our home as PICNIC CHICKEN because it is so delicious eaten cold the next day.  The flavours absolutely sing.

I always pack  Poulet GvillÉ a la Diable  in my big wicker basket  when Theadora, The Tin Man and myself head to the summer sandy Paris Beach.  We lounge on the beach next to Pont Neuf bridge.  Full size palm trees provide shade, and the passing parade of chic Parisians in beach attire provide the entertainment.

This no-fail chicken recipe that speaks of good things with a decided French accent awaits you in MRSBUTTERFINGERS kitchen.  Bon Appetit dear friends.

(Paris photo by Patrick Horpar)

 

 

 

 

 

 

SROOGE’S NEPHEW TELLS US HOW TO KEEP CHRISTMAS . . . 174 years later.

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say, “Christmas among the rest.  But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round-apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that-as a good time:  a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time:  the only time I known of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it HAS done me good, and WILL do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

(Charles Dickens.   Published in 1843.  Copied from the pages of  “THE ANNIVERSARY EDITION OF THE WORKS  OF CHARLES DICKENS  FEBRUARY, 7 1812” .   In the quiet evenings leading to Christmas Day I have been reading from my copy of this book (1911 edition).  More than one hundred years ago other hands turned these pages.  Read “A CHRISTMAS CAROL. IN PROSE.  BEING A GHOST STORY OF CHRISTMAS”.  Other eyes studied intently the illustrations then turned to the next story.  “THE CHIMES.  A GOBLIN STORY OF SOME BELLS THAT RANG AN OLD YEAR OUT AND A NEW YEAR IN”.  This was followed by “THE CRICKET ON THE HEARTH.  A FAIRY TALE OF HOME”.    Then “THE BATTLE OF LIFE.  A LOVE STORY”.     Dickens took me to dark places with “THE HAUNTED MAN AND THE GHOST’S BARGAIN”.    A waiting me in the New Year “PICTURES FROM ITALY”.  This classic book, with introductions to each tale, has insightful critical comments, and notes by  critics and writers including Wm. Makepeace Thackery.  Dickens’ peers judging him.  Some not kindly.

I found my faded, red book with sepia illustrations, years ago in a second-hand book store in our tiny village of Ladner.  It was like rediscovering an old friend from the past.    Through the long, bitter cold winter nights of Northern Saskatchewan, we would huddle around the kitchen stove and our Mother would read to us.  A Christmas Carol and The Cricket On The Hearth were our favorites.

. . . . . ” it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us, and all of us! 

And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”

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 tale 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  that even 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.   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 an unknown fact that rabbits have a very sweet tooth.  Oswald was 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.  (A flâneur is a stroller enjoying the life of the city.)  Ladurée  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.

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 a  clear cut hill  are not rabbits wearing magic coats?