Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Gift

I wrote a while ago about a swap I was involved in... to be sent close to June 15th... and I did so diligently, within a day or 2 of the supposed mailing date. And I wondered about the lady that would be getting mine, would she love it? Would she listen to the cd? Make something special with the pearls?

And I wondered what would be sent to me, too. I was excited about getting mail - especially mail that is not a bill, or a flyer, or a parking ticket reminder... but a gift. A gift from a stranger, no less!

And I waited...

....and waited....

...and waited.

And after about a month and a half, I gave up. Its easy to get caught up in everyday life, and decide not to participate in something that you thought might be fun, so maybe the person who was doing my trade had just decided not to...

but I waited a little longer....

....some more time passed...

...and then

...2 months and 2 days after the "mail by" date, after returning from running some errands, as I was chatting to a neighbour in my building, the postie walked past me, and out of the front door, carrying a big plastic wrapped red package. I continued my conversation with my neighbour, and the postie made his way out to the Canada Post truck. Shortly after, I made my way upstairs to my front door. There, on the door handle, was his "I missed you when I tried to deliver a parcel to you" note!!

So I waited until the next day, after 1:00pm (as per the instructions) to go to the laundromat at the nearby plaza to pick up my parcel. With barely a thought of the swap left I was hypothesizing about what was in the box... had I ordered those shoes I had fancied online after all? Was it a birthday gift?? Its coming soon... so it could be? Hmmm...

I picked up the parcel, and it had been super-duper wrapped by someone at the postal service... the box was held together by a few small patches of unbroken cardboard, pieces of shredded paper sticking out of it from various holes. The box was stamped Royal Post, (hmmmm... from ENGLAND??!?!) and as I pulled my way through the tough outer plastic, I was looking to see who it was from.

I opened the box, and there, in the midst of all the shredded packing paper, were several packages wrapped in hot pink tissue paper.

I opened the first one... a cd - Music From My Life
...and the second, a small tin that says "Time for Tea" on the outside of it, and contains teabags. The third one was a package of shortbread, handmade... with REAL butter! There were 3 post cards, and a 4th with the sender's favourite quote. There were 2 beautiful English house and home magazines. And a beautiful porcelain teacup and saucer.

And perhaps you can guess what happened next?

I filled the kettle,
put on the cd,
made a cup of tea from the earl grey teabags that were sent,
sat in my comfiest chair,
put my feet up,
opened the shortbread,
and picked up the postcard that was written on...

and it said:

"All will be well
And all will be well
And all manner of things will be well"
(Julian of Norwich)

Thank you, Carole from England, for the beautiful gift you sent. I have enjoyed it so many times over... and I think of you when I listen to the cd you compiled, and I wonder what you are like...
what your life has been like, and what part each of the songs has played in your life.

...and all certainly was well, and delicious, and relaxing, and inspiring, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Thank you so much, Carole!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Inviting the Queen of Sheba

I invited the Queen of Sheba to a potluck tonight.

She was reborn in my tiny kitchen this afternoon; born of fresh ingredients, a little effort and concentration, and the explicit instructions of Julia Child. After seeing the oh-so-inspiring movie Julie & Julia, my friend Audrey invited a few food-loving friends to a "Julie & Julia potluck".

I borrowed my mom's authentic 1974 Julia Child cookbook, The French Chef's Cookbook, bought all (well almost all) of the ingredients... I couldn't justify spending $12 on 2 ingredients which would have come to a total quantity of a 1/2 teaspoon, so I got "a scant 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar" and 1/4 tsp almond extract from my mom's kitchen - thank you Mom!) ...went home, put on my pearls, and began to cook. It is the first time in a long time I have read the directions (and followed them) so carefully. It turned out really well.

The cake, as you can see in the picture, doesn't look like the fanciest of cakes.
It isn't, in fact.
I mean, it looks good. If it were put down in front of me I would say thank you and certainly have a bite. And I would be SO surprised by it. I wouldn't have known what hit me. I mean, it tastes like what the big 4 layer, chocolate ganache-filled cakes in a fancy bakery should ( but often do not) taste like.

It might look like a one layer cake.
It IS a one layer cake, but it is not missing anything.
It is not short a second layer.
It doesn't require a smear of icing in the middle.

It is the perfect PERFECT chocolate cake.

It is so fine. So fine and smooth a texture. SO FINE! It has to be experienced to know how fine it is. Its a gives the feeling of being dense, but is not heavy. It melts in your mouth, leaving a strong and pure chocolate flavour in its tracks. It was unbelievable.

I know it might be seen as rude, and to be fair I did leave half of the remaining cake at Audrey's for her to enjoy tomorrow,

...but I did take the other half of the remainder home... placed it on a plate fit for a queen, a pink and gold throne for her to sit on in the fridge until we meet again.

Tomorrow I hope to introduce her to my mother, perhaps over a cup of tea. Mmmmmm.

Thank you Julia Child, for the best chocolate cake recipe I have ever made. And a huge thank you to Audrey for having such a wonderful party!!

What a delight!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

So Tonight I Think of You

Its like a prayer, of sorts. Its a peaceful time, a magical time, an inspirational time, and tonight I had the pleasure of doing it alone. Its not that I wanted to be alone when I thought about it, but that when it turned out I would be, I wasn't disappointed. In fact, it was a gift to have the time to reflect a little and to think of the people I have shared it with.

And so tonight, I think of you Mom, who laid out the blankets and sleeping bags in the back yard, made the hot chocolate and came in to wake us up to experience the magic for the first time.

Tonight I think of you Dad, and your trickery one of the following years; heading inside to "go to the washroom" or something like that, only to sneak up to your bedroom in the dark, remove the flash from your camera, and let it burst a flash of light so strong and bright "we ALL saw that one!" and "Ooooooohed" and "Aaaahhhhed" with such excitement. You had us fooled for about 3 shots... and then we figured it out. Your best prank, I'd say.

I think of the friends I've watched with, telling secrets to each other under the cover of darkness... making wishes about which boy we'd hope to kiss, or what our houses would be like when we were grown up. Tonight I thought of you, Wendy, and our plans to buy an island together, and build 2 houses on it so we could always be close as neighbours and friends... I can't remember if there was a particular island, or perhaps just one we'd imagined.

And tonight I thought of Karin and Rachel, coming to watch for their first time at our house... Rachel, you weren't too keen on being outside "with all the bugs", but once you saw the first one, we couldn't get you to come in.

Tonight I thought of the Portland crew... the families we camped with on the BC Day long weekend for so many years. There were always sightings on the nights we slept out under the stars. Wishes were made, stories were told, and mosquito bites collected like irritating trophies of braving the wilderness and bonding with friends.

I thought of the few times I have gone alone, sat in the car, reveling in the delight of having a sunroof that I could watch from without getting cold or bitten.

Tonight I thought of my first love, and holding hands as we watched. I thought of my next love and how we loved under the stars. I thought of last year's skinny dipping; floating on our backs, watching for bursts of light, or the telltale stripe caught in the corner of your eye - ahhh - just missed it!

I thought of all the people who bring magic to what they do. Friends, artists, lovers, tellers of fairytales and makers of dreams.

It is those of you whom I hope to do this with in the future, and those of you with whom I have shared it in the past - you are who I think of when I watch the shooting stars tonight.

Tonight - with every flash of light, burst of brightness or streak of white I make a wish for each of you... for all the best in life!