MY LONG AND WONDERFUL LIFE WITH THE WIZARD OF OZ

 

There  was never a moment in my life I wasn’t aware of  the story of Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz.     In that quiet time  when the evening becomes a silvery twilight, and I was very very young,  my Mother would read to me.   It was the children’s hour.  This slender  book.  This fairy tale of witches and wizard.  This story of a brave girl and her trio of unlikely saviours became an integral part of both my childhood  and my adult years.

My own copy of the book,  The Wizard of Oz,  was long lost.   For many  years I  searched for it.    I few weeks ago I discovered a copy of the book  waiting patiently for me on a Thrift Shop shelf.  Not just any book but but one published in l931. The book cover was a little worn.  The edges of the  pages  a little foxed.  But the coloured illustrations are as bright and vivid as I remembered them.

The movie The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939.  Up until that time our Saturday afternoons movies (generally Westerns)   were in  black and white.   To sit and watch the Oz movie turn from black and white to magical, brilliant colour was an experience I will never forget.   I really was in the land of Oz.  And all those years later Oz is still very much a part of me.

Nine years old and I would settle for nothing but red shoes.    I was obsessed with the ruby slippers Dorothy wore  in the movie.   In the 1940’s children’s shoes were special occasion black patent Mary- Jane’s  or  brown leather lace ups for school.  There was very little choice in  small town in Northern Saskatchewan.  I found red leather shoes in our only department store – Eaton’s.   Unfortunately a size to large.  I was  desperate for them.  My obliging Father had a shoemaker sew  a strap on  so I wouldn’t walk out of my  beautiful red shoes.

I still love red shoes ;  loafers,  sandals, pumps,high heels, court heels,  shoes with red beads, with gold buckles,  with velvet bows.   All a version of those famous ruby slippers

Then there was the Siamese cat.   In the last scene of the Wizard movie Dorothy holds a Siamese cat.  I wanted a cat with blue eyes .   That exotic breed did not exist in our northern town.   Twenty years later my first Siamese purred his way into my heart.  In the years that followed there was always one or two of these elegant creatures ruling my home.

Dorothy’s  journey to  the Great Oz takes her through a dangerous but glorious  field of fiery red poppies.   The image remained with me through the years until finally I was able to  grew my own field of poppies in our home in the country.

Finding one’s heart desire is not the easiest of tasks.   Finding a Wizard who can grant it is even harder.  L. Frank Baum wrote fairy tales that were also very much parables.  In these modern times it appears we need them more than ever.

“Home – and I’m not going to leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all.  And  – oh Auntie Emm,  There’s no place like home.”

Indeed.  There is no place like home.

 

 

 

 

 

SINFULLY SENSATIONAL DELICIOUSLY DECADENT WARM CHOCOLATE CAKE

This is the epitome of decadent desserts.  Deeply dark, warm chocolate cake served right out of the oven.  Warm chocolate cake is a dessert with an edgy  reputation for being a difficult production.  Many  recipes have you making the cake,  baking the cake, then serving the cake.   It is all too last minute.    Stressful for the hostess in the kitchen preparing the cake while dinner guests wait for dessert.

This is a straight forward recipe.  It requires a few ingredients.  The very best chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar and flour.  The secret to this gorgeous dessert is to MAKE IT AHEAD OF TIME.    One refrigerates the cakes for 24 hours before you bake them.

You bake the chocolate cakes for twelve to thirteen minutes.  The centres of the cake will feel soft and not quite fully set when you touch the centres.  The edges will be firmer.  This is the magic moment to pull your spectacular desserts out of the oven

You can serve these little darlings with a tiny sprinkle of fleur de sel (or flaky sea salt).     A generous scoop of cherry custard ice cream and you have a deconstructed Black Forest Cake.    When I want the dessert to be very very French I pour liberal lashings of my salted caramel sauce over the cake.

The recipe for WARM CHOCOLATE CAKE awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.

( Cake baking photographs courtesy W. Lloyd )

 

 

OSWALD’S WINTER SOLSTICE PARTY CANCELLED . . . FRIDAYS FOR THE FUTURE!

YOU HAVE STOLEN MY DREAMS

Every December 21st Oswald, gentleman rabbit  marked the Winter Solstice with a wondrous party.    Once a year rabbits, big and small joined Oswald for the celebration  Rabbits are custodians and caretakers of all things growing.  This year the Friday  Solstice celebration was cancelled.  Instead  millions of  rabbits world wide  joined protests demanding emergency action on climate change.

Oswald watched and listened to the words of a child addressing world leaders.

“You are still not mature enough to tell it like it is – you are failing us. ” she said. ” How dare you – you have stolen my dreams and my childhood.”

“It has come this.” he thought.  “A child has the maturity and understanding they lack.  No country can claim to be doing their part.   No country can claim to be” the greatest” if they refuse to recognize the danger facing our world.  There will be no future for anyone.”

Outside his burrow, Oswald, gentleman rabbit,  quietly waited.  Then from the branch of the tallest tree a single bird sang.  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 vibrated with its magnificence.

“Is anyone listening?” whispered Oswald.  “Does anyone care?”

 

 

MOCHA THE DOG WITH THE MAGIC EARS

 MOCHA AND HER MAGIC EARS

About ten years ago the most wonderful of dogs came into our life.    I wrote a story about Mocha for one of our grand children.  It is a magic story and it is a true story.  Mocha was loved deeply by all who had the  honour to know her.    A few days ago she passed quietly away surrounded by those she loved .  The farm is an empty place with out her.

Max is our four year old great grand-son.  He asked me “Do you have any rabbits on the farm?”  And so I told him the tale of Oswald Gentleman Rabbit and his magic red velvet coat.

“One more question”, said Max. Max always has one more wonderful question. ” Do you have any OTHER magic animals on the farm?”

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Max, my darling boy.  Let me tell you a story about our farm dog.  Her name is Mocha.  She is an enormous dog.  So big and so strong you could easily ride her – that is if you had a mind to Max.   She has the courage of a lion, a heart filled with love,  a soul overflowing with happiness, big brown eyes that sparkle with  mischief and most important Mocha has magic ears.  She hears everything.

 

 

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Mocha can hear the chatter of bugs.  She  rests her head on her paws and watches carefully as they natter and nibble their way through the grass.

 

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Mocha can hear the whisper of butterfly wings .  She bounds joyfully into the air following them through the garden while they entertain her with stories of their long journey  – flying thousands of miles to spend summer on the farm

 

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The big barn on the farm is filled with dairy cows and calves.  The cows are mooing  and Mocha listens carefully.   The cows are telling her about a coyote that has been skulking at the edge of the field.  Mocha paces back and forth – looking and listening until she spots the coyote.  Then she barks.  Loud,  loud scary barking that rolls across the field.   Angry barking that says to the coyote stay away or you will be in big trouble.

 

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Mocha’s magic ears hear everything.   She listens to Max learning to skate with his Grandfather.  She listens to brave Max deep underground caving with his Dad.   She hears Max splashing in the ocean.  Mocha listens and watches and bravely stands guard.

 

(Mocha really exists.  She is half Great Pyrenees and half Labrador.  When she is not guarding the farm she accompanies me to the garden and stands watch while I work.  There is big mound of dirt close to the garden. Mocha climbs to the top and barks letting is be known she is standing guard.

Mocha invents games to entertain herself.  Her favourite toy is a large orange pylon.  The big kind you see around construction sites.   She is so strong she easily carries it around.  Tossing  it in the air.  Catching it.  And then just because she can she puts her head inside  the pylon and plays a kind of blind man’s bluff.  She has a strange collection of toys – a few sticks to play fetch, a deflated soccer ball, a garden light.  She will gather all her toys in a pile then curl up next to them and sleep in the sun.

Mocha knows the sounds of the different vehicles that regularly travel our country road.  These she ignores.   She ignores the mailman, the person who comes to read the power and gas meter.  She pays no attention to the runners and cyclists that exercise daily on our road.    But let her hear a strange footstep or a car that she feels doesn’t belong and her barking is loud and important.   Brave and noble Mocha is doing her job.   Looking after the farm and her people.

 

 

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS GIFT WRAPPING . . . in the style of Coco Chanel

Logs in the ancient fireplace crackled .  Heavy faded velvet curtains shut out the cold and dark night.  On the old Victrola  Piaf warbled   Le Noël de la rue.  It was the top of the hour.  She opened the curtains.   The lights of the Eiffel tower filled the room.  Here in the magic of her little house in Paris she would wrap her gifts .

Plain brown paper unrolled.  Silver scissors cut.  A scattering of pearls.  An elegance of black ribbon.  A Coco Chanel wrapped Christmas gift.

Champagne chilled.   Cassoulet simmered on the ancient  La Cornue stove.   The room fragrant  with its rich welcoming aroma.  Footsteps whispered on the ancient stone stairs.  Her guests had arrived.  It was Christmas in une petite maison.   My little house in Paris is with me always.  To journey to it I have but to close my eyes and turn the key on the welcoming door.

(Dear Friends, This post of pearls and presents is a favourite.    I love the economy of wrapping with recyclable, inexpensive plain brown paper. Coloured tissue paper and metallic paper is not recyclable.  The pearls are easy stick-ons and the black ribbon is wireless.  Everything purchased in a quick trip to my favorite dollar store.  )

CHRISTMAS FRUIT CAKE . . . make it, bake it, enjoy it – the same day!

All is not lost if you didn’t have time for the ritual baking of Christmas cakes back in October.  This gorgeous fruitcake can be baked and savoured the same day.  Its  wonderful, spicy fragrance fills your home with an aroma this is pure Christmas.  It slices beautifully and the beguiling perfume of allspice, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg is perfection itself.

Last December I baked  this rich fruit cake  in a loaf tin.    This year I adjusted the recipe slightly and baked it as a traditional Christmas cake.     You have lee way as to the size of cake tin you use – any spring form pan between eight and ten inches.  Using a cake tin allows the cake to bake more evenly eliminating over-baked edges.   You simply adjust the  oven baking time.

The ingredients are  guidelines.  The recipe calls for candied mixed peel, cherries and dried apricots.  You could  use dried figs or dates.  Pecans, slivered almonds could replace the chopped walnuts.  The brandy decanter is empty –  substitute sherry or perhaps an exotic liqueur.  The recipe is so forgiving.

There is so much pressure surrounding the holiday season.  We need to be calm and take a step back.  Enjoy our family.  Glory in the season.  This fruitcake is more than the sum total of its parts.  Its very simplicity gives one a chance to take a breath and enjoy preparing  food for those we love.

The recipe for this simply wonderful bake it today Christmas cake awaits you on

MRSBUTTERFINGERS.

 

Mexican Chocolate Cookies . . . Daringly delicious

At this time of year visions of sugar plums and baking cookies drift through one’s mind.  Would anyone notice if I don’t bake short bread cookies this year?  Do I really want to make three kinds of biscotti for the cookie exchange party?   If you desire to bake something completely different.  A recipe that is decidedly off the beaten path.  This cookie recipe will have you singing Jingle Bells all the way to your kitchen.

If I was to rate  MEXICAN CHOCOLATE COOKIES I would give it the highest rating.  Definitely a 10!The unusual combination of bittersweet chocolate mellows the heat of black and red pepper and creates a cookie with a flavour that is out of this world.  The cookie is both crisp and chewy.   For a final ying and yang flavour your sprinkle a little Malden salt over the little darlings.  If the salt seems a little daring dust your cookies with a little powdered sugar.  Or both.  The recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

I love this comment from a discerning cookie consumer.    She would have me flying through the night delivering these rather outrageously wonderful creations.

“Dear Mrs. Butterfingers,

You made it sound impossible to live without tasting a few from your Mexican Chocolate delights. That being the case, I feel it only fair that you consider filling your linen lined basket with these yin and yang specialties,  flying throughout the night, while stopping to enter  the  homes of others through open windows, key holes, balconies, or whatever suits for I am loathe to think of such a delivery occurring differently in our fantasy land.  Let it be your magical mystery tour.

I wonder what one leaves to treat the the cookie faerie…….  I expect you would be drawn to bits of french ephemera, exotic spices , rich fabrics and books of poetry. If I knew you were taking flight, samples of each could be  found in a basket that awaits return to you. Enter as you will but I shall be waiting, even if in the arms of Morpheus for I know the faerie often enters under the cover of night”

 

 

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 a  member 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