ALWAYS WELCOME STRANGERS FOR THEY MAY BE ANGELS

A very, very long time ago, in a place far, far away I bought a cabin.  It was built of huge logs harvested on the property.   The road a faint path grown over with years of neglect.  It stood alone quietly  facing  a small lake in Northern Saskatchewan.     The windows obscured with the dust of many years.  Velvety moss covered the stone doorstep.    Over the  door a sign ALWAYS WELCOME STRANGERS THEY MAY BE ANGELS.  I bought my cabin never stepping inside.

Later when I picked up the key I learned the history of my cabin.  It had been built in the early Twenties.  When  World War Two was declared in September l939 the son  of the owners enlisted.  He never came home.  His parents never returned to their cabin.   Twenty-Two years later I walked into a time capsule.    It was as if they had simple closed the door and gone for a stroll.   I kept the iron beds.  The “crazy ” patchwork quilts.    The  kettle for heating water.    The Union Jack to hang on the flag pole.  The tiny child’s wooden boat.   I kept the sign over the door.

Thus began my fascination with angels.    I was fascinated with the concept of entertaining angels unaware.    Their wings.  What do angels do with their wings?  Tuck them under their coats?  Hang them at the door?   The Christmas issues of my French magazines always featured angel wings in their decor.  Hanging over mirrors.  On the backs of chairs.    Now I was obsessed with finding  angel wings.  Not flimsy cartoon versions of wings, but big, white wings with feathers.

It was in July of the past summer when I walked into our Ladner Thrift Shop and discovered my angel wings.  They were hanging with children’s costumes.     Teary eyed I stroked the feathers.  They were perfect .  They were my long sought after angel wings.

They hang surrounded  by all things French .    The setting is perfect.  My angel wings catch the early morning sun and in the evening tiny fairy lights light up the night.   I remember the sign from long ago.   I live in hope remembering the cabin sign.   Welcome strangers for some have entertained angels unawares.

 

 

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 members of this amazing organization.

 

 

COLD WEATHER COMFORT FOOD …. FRENCH STYLE BOEUF BOURGINGNON … beef bourgingnon

 

A little over ten years ago a popular French cookbook  was published in English. I KNOW HOW TO COOK by Ginette Mathiot’s has been the best-selling cookbook in France for three generations.  The book first published in l932 has been regularly revised and updated.   This book has been an essential fixture on the counters of French kitchens for over 75 years.  You could call it the definitive cookbook for French home cooking.

You’ll find the all the French basics, but what I appreciated was the unusual;  recipes for Barley Sugar,  Ash Leaf beer, Cuissot de Sanglier (hindquarter of wild boar)   and Becasse Rotie Sauce Crème (Roast woodcock in cream sauce).  It makes terrific bedside reading.

The recipes are brief and concise.  But here’s the codicil.    The author requires one to have enough general knowledge to navigate the recipes.     For example;  some of the cake recipes don’t give exact pan sizes. So be aware.  Be brave.     You won’t be disappointed.

When the cold winds of November have you longing for something hearty and deeply satisfying this so very French recipe from I KNOW HOW TO COOK  is absolutely perfect.

BOEUF BOURGUIGNON (Beef Bourguignon)

Preparation time: 20 minutes.  Cooking time: 2 ½ hours.   Serves 6

1 tablespoon oil,   3 oz. pearl onions or shallots.   3 ½ ounces small bacon cubes,   1 pound 8 ½ oz. stewing beef, cut into pieces,   Scant  ¼ cup flour.   1 ¼ cups any stock, hot.   1 ¼ cups red wine.   1 bouquet garni.   Salt and pepper.   3 ½ oz. mushrooms, peeled and chopped.

In a heavy pan over medium heat, heat the oil and pan-fry the onions and bacon cubes until browned.  Remove them, add the meat and brown it on all sides.  Sprinkle with the flour, stir until browned.  Scrap up the brown bits in the bottom of the pan  then add the hot stock.  Mix well to combine.   Add the bacon cubes, onions, wine and bouquet garni, and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer gently on low heat for 2 hours, then add the mushrooms (see chef’s note below) and cook for 30 minutes more.  Bon Appetit

Chef’s Note:  The recipe is according to the book.   I suggest when you add the hot stock you scrap up the brown bits in the pan.  Before I added the mushrooms I sautéed them in a little olive oil and butter.  Delicious

A FRIEND WRITES OF REMEMBRANCE DAY AND HER FATHER

This morning I returned from Remembrance Day Services at the Cenotaph in Ladner Village.  Ours is a small village but the  parade route was crowded with people.   We were there to  honour and remember those men and women  who sacrificed their lives for their country.    No matter the ethnic diversity or religion we wore the red poppy and sang O Canada.  The wreaths were laid.  The honour guard departed.  The Cenotaph was given back to Ladner Village.   It was our turn to remove our poppies and place them among the Remembrance Day wreaths.

We have our remembrances on this day and I share one written by a dear friend of mine.

“The respect which remains in far away places for our Canadian soldiers warms my heart for so many reasons; most important among them is that my dear father was one who chose to serve his country as a Navigator in The Royal Canadian Air Force.

As a child I found carefully stored boxes in which were remnants from his service: reconnaissance photos, pieces of shrapnel that entered his plane from many directions and bits of a rosary mom had given my non- Catholic father in hope of keeping him safe.  The rosary in bits because it had obviously been closely held.  I asked mom about this find but never my father.”

Dad never spoke of his experience and I somehow innately knew not to question him.  If asked anything  about his service by a guest in our home his answer would be short and non- descriptive. I can only imagine his experience while being in the midst of the horrors of war.

I thank my dad and all others who sacrificed so much, including their lives in many cases, in order to represent Canada in assisting a part of the world in its time of great need. Words I so wish my father could have heard coming from me.”

 

REMEMBRANCE DAY . . . We Remember Always.

 

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If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is forever England.  There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed:

Gave,  once,  her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England’s, breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home

 

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And think, this heart,all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given,

Her signs and sounds; dream happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends;  and gentleness,

In hearts at peace,  under an English heaven.

Remembrance Day is one of bitter sweet memories.    We remember those who never returned, and are grateful for those who returned.

 

 

My father-in-law  grew up in a quiet town in Southern Ontario.  He enlisted and his training as a flight sergeant took place in an equally small town in Saskatchewan.  This is where he met and married.    He returned from the war to live in   Saskatchewan.

 

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My uncle,  Bertram Henry Henderson grew up in my home town, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.  He and his two brothers all enlisted in the Regina Rifles.  He died in action October 27, 1944.  His last letter home was dated October 27, 1944.  It was written in the dim light of a candle in a bottle.  The letter was in his effects returned to the family.

 

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My older sister and myself with my Uncle shortly before he was shipped overseas.

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This document shows the location of his grave in Belgian.  It also identifies the family who would be responsible for the maintenance and care of his grave site.

 

 

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Our Uncle’s grave continues to be looked after by the Belgian Family entrusted in their care more than 70 years ago.  Members of that family continue to maintain contact with our family.

 

My father grew up in a small village in southern England.  He fought in the war to end all wars (World War One).  When war ended he immigrated to Canada to join his older brothers in Northern Saskatchewan.  The only time he mentioned the war was to tell us how  he had befriended some Turkish prison of war soldiers and they had taught him  to make Turkish coffee.

 

 

(  poem  … The Soldier – Rupert Brooke)

UNDERSTANDING THE RED POPPIES OF REMEMBRANCE DAY

My husband and I  lived in Amsterdam for a brief while.    This is a city and a people where the second world war is still very close and very personal. We lived on Gerrit van der Veenstraat .  Following  the war the street was renamed after the resistance fighter Gerrit van der Veen .   He was executed by the Gestapo.   On this street there is a monument honouring him.  I walked past it every day and always, always there were fresh flowers in the niche of the building.

At noon on the first Monday of every month the defence air raid siren would sound.  Pedestrians would pause.   Cyclists would dismount.  Men would take off their hats.  All were honouring those who gave their lives during the war.

To be a Canadian in Amsterdam is to be frequently thanked by strangers.  The  Dutch have not forgotten it was  the Canadians who liberated Holland.

I discovered the red poppies.  The poppies that grew in Flanders Field.  The poppies    despite the war ravaged land bravely showed their colours.    I found them in vacant lots and bits of forgotten land.  Anywhere these  glorious flower could take root.  It is understandable why these  symbolic flowers are so important.  We wear them over our hearts to show we remember.

I returned home with packages of Dutch red poppy seeds and year after year the poppies bloom in my garden.  Of all the flowers in my garden it is the red   poppy dearest to my heart.

 

DECIDEDLY DECADENT AND UTTERLY IRRESISTIBLE . . . CHOCOLATE AND SALTED DULCE DE LECHE TART

 

Chocolate dark as midnight.  Caramel sauce –  toffee-like  with just a suggestion of burnt sugar.    A superb marriage of flavours.   CHOCOLATE AND SALTED DULCE DE LECHE TART is a very indulgent and very very French dessert.   One sees it on the menu of discerning French restaurants.   One adores eating it.  But faced with the complex demands of making the perfect crust, the silky smooth chocolate filling and the smoky rich caramel sauce the perfect hostess pops into her favourite patisserie and picks up this tart.

This recipe takes the tears and pressure out of putting this dessert together and you can do it in about twenty minutes.  It is an uncomplicated recipe.

Chop up some roasted nuts, chocolate and oat digestive biscuits in the food processor.  Mix it with melted butter and press it into a loose-bottomed tart tin(a must).   The can of dulce de leche is opened and two-thirds of it are poured over the chilled crust.  Use the rest of the dulce de leche and pour it over cake or ice cream.  Chocolate and cream are stirred together to make an unbelievably smooth and creamy sauce.  Pour this over the dulce de leche and tuck the tart into the fridge to chill.  Sprinkle the top of the pie with the finest flakiest sea salt in your pantry.  Malden salt would be absolutely perfect.

Keep the tart refrigerated until you are ready to serve it.  Cut narrow slices (it is incredibly rich) and quickly slide the tart onto the plate.  The dulce de leche will immediately slip out of the cut tart to form a fantastic sauce.

If you are an enterprising cook you could turn this into your own personal production by making the oat digestive biscuits and caramel sauce yourself.  Uncomplicated CHOCOLATE AND SALTED DULCE DE LECHE TART’s recipe awaits you in the  kitchen of MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.