The days before Christmas should be long and lingering. Days to enjoy. One needs to treasure the simple things. In an unhurried manner. No frantic trips to crowded malls. I start my Christmas in November. Creating Christmas cards. Gathering wrapping paper and ribbons. Unpacking the boxes of Christmas ornaments and decorations – all in a leisurely manner.
This is the time to enjoy treasured memories. I still have the Santa my son made in kindergarten forty-five years ago. Battered and faded it always graces our tree front and centre. The polar bear cookie jar appears on my kitchen counter. His name is lorek Byrnison, from the book The Golden Compass. This is how you slow down in the days before December 25th.
To give our home the perfume of Christmas preparations I simmer an all natural Christmas essence on the stove. You’ ll love the fresh, crisp, spicy fragrance, and you probably have everything to create it right in your kitchen.
Chop the peel of a large orange and a large lemon. Into a medium sized saucepan put the peel, plus 2 sticks of cinnamon broken, 12 whole cloves and 4 bay leaves. Add 4 cups of water and bring to the boil. Immediately reduce heat to a very slow simmer. A word of caution, don’t let it simmer dry. Just keep adding more water.
Away way back in time coffee cake was a simple treat. It was an uncomplicated cake. The ingredients were always at hand. It went together quickly . The delicious aroma of the baking cake filled your kitchen. It was warm and welcoming hospitality on a plate. One made coffee cake to be enjoyed with coffee or tea and dear friends It was elegant simplicity.
Then we add sour cream and blueberries, buttermilk and cranberries, rhubarb and apples. Coffee cake became a production. It lingered long in the oven and frequently longer cooling . It was definitely not something you whipped up on the spur of the moment.This recipe for CINNAMON COFFEE CAKE goes back to the late Fifties. It is a doodle to whip up. Presents beautifully. And tastes decadently divine. I have probably made it over seven hundred times and last week I made it for my friend Kate. It was received with so much enthusiasm and appreciation I renamed it KATE’S COFFEE CAKE. Kate is a remarkable woman in a demanding profession. She was ships bridge officer on luxury cruise ships for years and now continues her relationship with marine transportation at SeaSpan here on the west coast. This recipe is perfect for Kate. She loves baking but has little time to shop for exotic ingredients or spend hours in the kitchen.
The recipe came with a bag of Robin Hood Flour and it is simplicity personified. Flour sugar salt and baking powder mixed with butter. An egg whipped into milk. A quick and gentle stir and into the pan and a little brown sugar butter and cinnamon sprinkled over the top. This sweet little coffee cake goes together quickly so be sure to turn your oven on before you start your recipe. The recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.
The voice of Kiri te Kanawa soars through our home. A favorite and much loved CD … Chants d’Auvergne (songs of the Auvergne). I’m ironing napkins, gorgeous banquet sized antique linen damask napkins. The final memory filled task of Saturday’s dinner party, a memorable evening with friends and family.
No ordinary napkins these, but heavy, large 24″ by 24″ drifts of shimmering white. I treasure hunt for vintage linen. Finding them in thrift shops and garage sales. Buying single orphans. Incomplete sets. Monogrammed napkin embroidered with the initials of others.
At the end of the evening the napkins soak in cold water over night. If there is a recalcitrant stain I add a little powdered bleach. I wash them in more cool water, gentle cycle, mild soap. I hang them to dry.
I spray them with L’Occitane’s lavender-scented Linen Water. It’s lovely to see the beautiful damask patterns come to life under the heat of the iron. I fold the napkin in half and press a sharp crease, then fold and iron again. My Mother, who was a beautiful ironer would not approve of this. It wears the linen away. But, I like the sharp, crisp crease. I do the same with my linen tablecloths (it’s the French style).
The napkins, still damp and immaculately ironed, air dry on the laundry rack. I tie each set with with coloured ribbons and carefully tuck them away to wait patiently for the next dinner party.
This simple act of calmly and quietly ironing, and storing them in an orderly fashion is the zen and art of ironing linen napkins.
The fabulous. The fantastic. The Fantasy. The magical world of art gowns created by Resa of Queen Street West, Toronto. The unique catwalk presentation had the audience of thousands on the their feet cheering and applauding.
Virginia flew in from Paris to participate in this one of a kind COOP event. Resa’s Empress d’Amore gown, created for Virginia, opened the gorgeous parade of gowns. Ooh and aah over the dazzling art gowns and their wonderfully unusual models. Read all about this one-of-a-kind fashion event on RESA’S ART GOWNS.
It is at this time of year when the days shorten and dusk creeps quietly into our lives. When we put away the warm whispers of summer. When we scuff through fallen leaves removing the silver dust of Paris. This is my favorite season in the city of light.
It is at this time of year I return to my little house in Paris to pack away the summer memories. To take down the linen curtains that dance at my windows and replace them with enveloping rich dark green velvet. To cover the stone pavers of my kitchen floor with a faded and warm carpet.
And it is this time of year, market basket under my arm, I raise very early and head for the markets. I am abroad even before the street cleaners. Searching for the last stoned fruit of the season to make just one last plum tart.
The Paris pastry shops beguile us with dazzling displays of fruit tarts. They are perfectly imperfect with simply arranged seasonal fresh fruits made even more irresistible with sugar-studded , heavily caramelized, crunchy rims. This is pie perfection! Honest pies that promise you everything and deliver. My alter ego happily shares her dreams of Paris and her recipes with you. Bon Appetit, dear friends. MRS BUTTERFINGERS
Three years ago I was diagnosed once again with breast cancer. I had a mastectomy. After surgery my treatment was oral Exemestene – an anti-cancer hormone treatment not normally given to woman over eighty years old. Two years of Exemestene and the many serious side-effects of this drug became so debilitating, the quality of my life so miserable, I made the choice to stop treatment.
One of the unpleasant side effects was painful burning and numbness in my feet and legs at night. My feet became numb and I was having trouble walking, climbing stairs, anything relating to balance. It was diagnosed as peripheral neuropathy. I received little help from the oncology neurologist other than suggesting adding a B Multiple supplement to the vitamin supplements I was taking. This was the beginning of my extensive research on treatment of chemotherapy induced peripheral sensory neuropathy.
Courtesy Google I researched many North American sites reporting positive results treating people with type two Diabetes with large amounts of Vitamin B 12 and Alpha laporic acid (an antioxidant, ) but little information on chemotherapy induced neuropathy. The information I required was found on Dutch and German medical sites. I discussed the decision to add vitamin B12 and alpha laporic acid to my supplement regime with my family doctor and my nephrologist.
It has been just three months since I started taking B12 and alpha laporic acid and I have been able to sleep with less burning pain. Physiotherapists gave me exercises to strength my feet and legs and improve my balance. Periperal Neuropathy weakens the muscles. I’ve made major changes in my diet with emphases on fresh fruits and vegetables and protein. The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy is an excellent source of information. But, it is important to be your own advocate. Do extensive research and question everything. And most important to discuss your choices with your family doctor and not self diagnose.
On the most positive note – my research has improved the quality of life for my younger sister. She has type two diabetes and had never been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy. She discussed treatment with her physician and after adding vitamin B 12 and alpha laporic acid to her vitamin supplements she ended years of suffering and has absolutely no burning night pain in her feet.
It is not my nature to be so open about something so intensely personal. Cancer has been my unwanted companion for eleven years. If this experience helps just one person that is what this post is about, and I will have made a difference for some one.