Early morning. Five o’clock. I am alone in a small room. I stare at the wall facing my bed. Chipped and battered from beds being pushed in and out. The only decoration a faded cork board and a sign advising one how to wash your hands. Nothing beautiful to look at. Nothing to bring me up from the black abyss. I am alone with various tubes attached to my body. I weep tears of utter despair. A few years ago my breast cancer returned. The first encounter I had a right breast lumpectomy. This time a mastectomy in the other breast. I am alone. Feeling so sorry for myself when my nurse enters my room with a gift wrapped package. Pillows! Soft, comfortable pillows covered in a happy flowered pattern. Pillows to give me under the arm and breast protection. In that moment the sun came out.
I’m smiling. I’m not alone.
The package contained pillows hand sewn by a group of woman who are members of the Delta Hospital Auxiliary. The hospital is located in Ladner, British Columbia. They are post-operative pillows tailored for post mastectomy surgery. The pillows are a gift from the Delta Hospital Auxiliary. These amazing women known as THE PILLOW PALS cut, sew, stuff and package these pillows. A thoughtful card with encouraging words are enclosed with the pillows.
I am giving back.
I am a proud member of the Delta Hospital Auxiliary. I search for wonderful fabrics to be sewn into pillows by dedicated woman known with great affection as THE PILLOW PALS.
I am giving back.
This morning I went out to my fence garden. Last autumn I planted dozens of tulips. I envisioned a glorious mass of breath taking colour. Magnificent tulips swaying elegantly against a background weathered fence. Instead I was presented with damp, black earth scattered with the guillotined heads of tulips. At first I thought the high wind of the previous evening was the culprit. In a Holmes like manner I examined the scene of the heinous crime. Rabbit prints. Rabbit paws. Small rabbit paws.
“I’ll catch those maundering rascals. And I’ll do what I always do with rabbits. I’ll nibble their ears off. I am so angry”, I muttered under my breath as I stalked off. I heard a quiet clearing of throat.
“Excuse me”. I turned to see Oswald, gentleman rabbit. “You have planted a garden dangerously close to our burrow. And you know how rabbits like to taste everything, at least once. Chewing a bunnies ears seems a bit excessive”, he quietly pointed out. “How else are they going to learn about this wonderful, green, growing world we live in”. I had made a rather vocal faux pas . Now I must confess to Oswald my guilty pleasure. I do indeed nibble rabbit ears.
“Oswald, dear Oswald. I would never nibble off bunny ears. If I have to choose between flowers and rabbits I would choose rabbits every time. When my children were young I always made sure their Easter baskets were filled with the finest of chocolate bunnies. Bunnies made from the very best Belgian chocolate. Bunnies with very big, solid ears. And my children obliged me by sharing their chocolate bunny ears with me.” My secret was out. I was a closet eater of chocolate rabbit ears. Tomorrow I would go to Jarry’s Market in the sweet, little village of Ladner. I would buy an armful of tulips, and perhaps a chocolate rabbit or two.
I will never forget the first time I tasted home made marmalade. I was visiting relatives in Scotland. They lived on a sweet farm just outside Dumfries. A behemoth, ancient Aga stove dominated their kitchen. Several large pots simmered away and filled the air with the perfume of oranges. Knives flashed and turned the knobbly peel of Seville oranges into fine, slender slices. Batches of the most perfect of preserves, homemade marmalade, cooled in small jars.
The season for these sour oranges is short. Just a few weeks in late January and February. Sometimes you can still find them in stores as late as March. Our divine Ladner food store, JARRY’S MARKET, made it possible to make marmalade this late in the year. Every marmalade aficionado know the best marmalade uses Seville oranges. Their thick, bitter peel holds the secret to this most heavenly concoction. It is this peel and pits that supply the necessary pectin. One can buy marmalade but it never tastes quite as delicious or gives us the same satisfaction of making it ourselves .
Making Seville orange marmalade is a two day process. However, it is not difficult. You juice the oranges and thinly slice or finely chop the rind the first day and have it sit quietly over night. The next day you add the sugar and cook the marmalade. You do need a good size pot and a candy thermometer. Absolutely no pectin is added.
One does not refer to marmalade as jam. Jam is made with fruit and even vegetables, but marmalade is always and only made with citrus fruits. The name is Portuguese in origin and refers to a preserve made with quince.
The recipe for SEVILLE ORANGE MARMALADE awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen. Bon Appetit dear friends.
I’ve been away. Traveling to my fantasy little house in Paris. Heavy green velvet curtains cover the tall windows. They keep out the cold wind that whistles and tugs at the window panes. The house is snug and warm and I’ve filled it with treasure from the Christmas markets. The flea markets have been scoured for bits of Christmas pasts. I’ve wrapped fat white candles with brown paper tied with twine. Angel wings hang from coat hooks and the kitchen is rich with the intoxicating aroma of a welcoming holiday feast. My Paris friend, Theadora, and our worldly traveled Tin Man will dine tonight. Joyeux Noel we shout from the balcony to the street belong. Joyeux Noel!
Joyeux Noel! Merry Christmas! The perfect words to welcome dear friends and family to our house in the country. I’ve brought memories of Paris home. I shall wrap candles in brown paper. I will conjure up golden angel wings. And I will paint the words Joyeux Noel. There is only a few short street of stores in our tiny Ladner village. It’s a charming , calm place to shop. Far away from hustle and bustle of malls. Quite by chance I found these letters on unpainted blocks of wood. The perfect do-it-yourself project. A little dark paint. A little white paint. Voila!
My slow and happy enjoyment of this season continues. There are presents to be wrapped. More decorations to make to adorn our home. A Christmas tree to decorate, but all in good time.
(If you visit TripSavy you will discover the Christmas markets and other magical places to visit during the holiday season. Photo of a Christmas market by TripSavy.)
“And men sit down to that nourishment which is called supper.” – William Shakespeare.
When it is a rainy January night and you live half way up a mountain one craves warming, simple comfort food. Our nephew Brett and his wife Fiona were entertaining us. What a delight to walk into their new home and smell the rich aroma of dinner cooking. Perfectly grilled lamb sausages served on mashed potatoes with a fresh tomato sauce. A supper so delicious I repeated a slightly different version on this dreary winter day.
This recipe is composed of several parts. Each quite simple, but the sum total of their parts is an outstanding dish perfect for a family supper or casual entertaining. You can vary the recipe by your choice of sausages. We are fortunate that our local Ladner village grocery store, Budget Foods, carries several varieties of Italian pork sausages from A. BOSA (a class act Italian grocery store in Vancouver).
Polenta is a staple of northern Italy and its hearty character is best accented by the robust flavours of the savory ragout. SAUSAGES WITH TOMATO-OLIVE RAGOUT AND POLENTA is indeed nourishment which is called supper.
The lot that sells Christmas trees is on the main street in our Village of Ladner. Around the third week in November I begin watching for signs the trees are arriving. First the fence goes up, then the poles for the trees. At last the trees arrive. For me Christmas has begun.
The ritual for selecting the trees is always the same. The Good Husband goes in one direction. I go in the other. Each searching for the perfect tree. It’s a gentle day. I walk through a forest of evergreens. A carpet of cedar chips mingles with the fragrance of the pine needles. The secret to finding the perfect tree is to look for one with the broadest base. It should have the thickest branches. The Good Husband holds up a tree. Too sparse. I spy a fat looking tree with a broad base. It is the one. But then every year the tree we pick regardless of what it looks like, is the perfect tree.
Putting up the tree is a two-day event. The first day is the complex procedure. The Good Husband sets up the tree, and then arranges the lights. Sister Heather has sent me a pair of sparkling red birds. The newest decoration is the first decoration to adorn the tree.
I bring out boxes of memories, and hang them on the tree.
Fifty-five years ago my Mother gave me this tiny copper kettle. It is time worn and part of the spout is missing. I hang it front and center.
I pour a glass of sherry. The tree is taking on a sparkling attitude. I love the whimsey of this monkey.
Birds perch on the branches singing Christmas Carols.
The last decorations are “the angels”. They are my favorite. So much so one year I couldn’t put them away. The Christmas angels spent a lovely year in various rooms in our home.
I adjust a glittering ball or two. Step back and admire The Tree. Sparkling, twinkling, happy Tree.
I’ll wrap more presents This tree is calling for them.
The ritual of the Christmas Tree ends.
Sit by the fire.
Watch A Christmas Carol. The best one with Alister Sim.
The Good Husband and I enjoy our “slow Christmas:”.