Monday, July 25, 2011

The Carrot Cake Story

I am asked more about my carrot cake than any other dessert at the TH - from where do I buy it?

And so, for your enjoyment, here is a little picture essay about the making of a carrot cake from start to finish:

Peeling the big bag of carrots

The shortcutter's friend: grating
the carrots in the Bosch


The first full Bosch canister of grated carrots

Ready to be measured

Three cups per bag;
two bags per cake

Now for the cake itself:
Start with good eggs ...

 Add the magical secret ingredients ...

Beaten and ready to go in the oven

Do NOT open the oven,
even if you can't stand the suspense ...

The baked cake, finished with
cream cheese icing

Cut and ready to serve.
If we get 12 pieces out of one cake,
and we use six cups of carrots per cake,
that's a full serving of carrots per piece ...
See, kids - it DOES pay to eat your vegetables!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Never Alone: The Weekend of Small Miracles

After a pretty tough week last week with my job, at the TH and for people I love, I was feeling somewhat like I was falling between the cracks. Like we all were.

The perfect circles that formed
on my abandoned chai mug ...
And then Saturday came, along with an empty dining room for the most part - one of the slowest days in the history of Nilgiris. The headache that had hovered almost out of sight for about a week decided to unleash its wrath today. I couldn't even drink my mug of chai: it sat, untouched and reproachful, on the counter for almost 12 hours, a silent reminder that everything was off kilter somehow.

But on this grey, troubling day, moments of grace were able to shine all the more brightly. Here are some I experienced:

Pulling off the caterpillars

The kindness of Doreen, who not only has given the TH the flower baskets and pots that have graced it for the past three years, but who also tends to them so that they remain gorgeous and a blessing to everyone who sees them. Doreen has now taken on Shauna Rose as a project: little horned caterpillars are trying to make a buffet table out of my rose bush, and Doreen came by Saturday morning and picked every one of them off. In addition to that, she spoke words of encouragement and great common sense that gave me some perspective on the past week and hope for the next ones. 

Naomi's card - a scene on the way to Linden
Shortly after this, BA popped in with my mail. One task I absolutely abhor is going to the post office and getting my mail. I don't know why, but that's the way it is. So my wonderful sister has taken it upon herself to relieve me of this chore and faithfully delivers my mail to me. In this parcel of mail was included a card from my friend Naomi, capturer of overlooked gems in nature and writer of words of encouragement. This card was no exception. I set it facing me on the counter as a visual reminder of the beauty we live in and the beauty we find in our friends.

Ed's own teacup - teacup #3
for our faithful friend!

The first actual guest I had - the first guest I have every Saturday morning! - was, of course, Ed. But this morning he came in, sat down, and said, "The TH is what I wait for all week at work. It's the highlight of my week. Many people are blessed by this place ..." The kindness of his words and his smile changed the atmosphere in the room to one of appreciation and acceptance. 

Peonies at the table named Hidden Valley

And then there was Ilona: "I've got peonies for your tables ..." she said in a phone call, and right at 10 a.m. she was there with a pail of them. Through the day I watched their petals unfurl and the blooms swell and fill the vases on each table with a magical beauty. Ilona and Phil, her date of the past 51 years, came for their regular Saturday afternoon coffee and because we were not busy I was able to spend a few moments chatting with them. The recollection of their 50th wedding anniversary, celebrated last year in the TH, reminded me of the enduring power of love and a good sense of humour!

Who knew our egg salad tasted so good?!
Then Angie came to me. Angie is walking her own rocky path right now, but this past Saturday afternoon when I desperately needed a boost she said, "You need to eat," and a plate with chicken gumbo and egg salad OFBs was handed to me. Because we were quiet, I could actually sit down and enjoy every morsel of a real lunch on a Saturday - unheard of on a "normal" Saturday ...

"Just a spoonful of sugar
makes the medicine go down ..."

And my dear Richard and Alana came in, each of them taking a moment to chat to me at the counter, each of them pouring a treasured tiny scoop of the sugar-coated fennel we keep at the till into my hand, a little wordless tradition that reminds me that they love me. Lana is going through deep waters these days, and yet she still reached out to uplift someone else ...

The Peace Rose teacup
 Brenda came in too, not once but twice. Brenda has a knack of showing up when things are a little crumbly around the edges. She sat at the table called The Hug and drank a pot of Earl Grey tea out of the Peace Rose cup. And just her presence and that particular tea cup reminded me that my Mum would talk about a "storm in a tea cup" and it reminded me that this too would pass.

Ellie, Fanta & the ladybug teapot

Then in from Calgary blew Gary and his kids! Because I wasn't busy, I could sit and chat and get to know and appreciate these two amazing people. Little Caelyn had had a disappointment that morning: her "Grandma Muriel" was not at home when they arrived for a visit. But because of that, she could while away an hour in the TH with Ellie and Fanta and the ladybug tea pot while Gordie bustled about, getting Ovations for the departing guests and helping to clear tables and put cushions on the chairs on the verandah; and it goes without saying that any time I get to spend with Gary, one of my most cherished friends, takes that whole day to a higher level. So when we parted all of us felt far more cheerful and optimistic about the rest of the afternoon.

Dad's hat on Limbo's table

Dad came in for a spot of lunch and a visit - and I got to sit with him, appropriately enough, at the table called Limbo. We talked about the week and the day and unexpected gifts. Being not busy when he was at the TH was an unexpected gift in itself. Later in the day my dear Joanne came in for a bowl of soup and I got to sit with her at Limbo (it's uncanny how people gravitated toward where they belonged on this oddly heightened Saturday!) and we could catch up with each other's lives for a few moments. Joanne's parents, Ray and Margaret, truly were "in love" with each other for all the six-plus decades they were married Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read a vignette from their incredible love story. Joanne is a beautiful, gracious reminder for me of that kind of love each time she enters the TH.  

The evening got busier and Curt not only held his own alone in the kitchen (of course we were short-staffed on a day like this!) but rose to new heights of capability. I am so proud of this young man who started here as a short, timid 14-year-old and has grown in poise and confidence along with his impressive physical stature!
My new elephant is named Shanti, 
the Sanskrit word for Peace

Out of the blue beautiful Alicia, one of the guests I am getting to know and love, beckoned me over and took my hand and pressed something into it. "This is for you," she murmured diffidently. I walked back to the counter area and opened my hand. There lay a vibrant, handpainted elephant - and not only was it an elephant, but it was an Indian elephant! Elephants never fail to speak to me - of faithfulness, of patience, of delicate grace emanating from lumbering bodies. Alicia is one of those souls who intuit pain in others and seek to relieve it. This newest addition to my elephant family will remind me that in the midst of turmoil there is stability and the familiar and the loved.

And right at the end of the evening - literally! The OPEN sign had been pulled and the last guests departed - Krista, who had been one of the last guests, suddenly reappeared. She took off her jacket and headed for the kitchen. "Where are you going?" I queried.

Just like old times ...
"I can't leave Curt alone in this kitchen," she declared and, rolling up her sleeves, she plunged her hands into the dish pan and tackled the remaining dishes. Before I could say Leave the china and I'll do it tomorrow - we're too tired tonight, she was half-way through it. Krista's indefatigable cheer and incomparable organizational skills whipped that kitchen into shape in under an hour. What a gift this woman has been to me! She's getting ready for her whole life to be upended again as she, Ben and the children contemplate a move to Cambridge for the next chapter in their lives ... but here, in the moments she has between countless activities and projects, she showed me how even an hour can count in reaching out to give someone else a boost.

The secret to good coffee ...

Then just as we were ready to call it a night, in walked Deborah Joy with coffee cream for Sunday; the grocery stores had been out of it when I did my shopping on Friday, and so she picked some up for me and delivered it on her way over to spend the night at Dad's place. She also slipped me a couple of Excedrin for Migraine pills and in a few minutes I finally started to feel like myself again. Debs shows her love in many practical ways every single day. Once again I am blessed to be her sister.

As I made my weary way upstairs and reflected on the beginning of the day from the perspective of the end of it, thinking of all the out-of-the-ordinary treasures I had received in the course of this one odd Saturday, the old chorus came to me and I started to sing it:

No, never alone, no, never alone
He promised never to leave me
Never to leave me alone
No, never alone, no, never alone
He promised never to leave me
Never to leave me alone!
Burst of joy at the end of the day!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Martha Has Crossed the Finish Line!

How good is the God we adore
Our faithful, unchangeable friend
Whose love is as great as His power
and knows neither measure nor end

'Tis Jesus, the first and the last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home
We'll praise Him for all that is past
and trust Him for all that's to come!

(Martha's favourite song)

Martha Wunsch
April 1, 1909 - July 13, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Martha's Marathon

Martha, our dear Martha, at the age of 102 has almost completed her Olympic marathon. She has entered the stadium and is running the last lap.

Dad spent two two-hour sessions visiting with her in palliative care today. She has her family around her. Dad helped her plan her funeral months ago. She is ready to go, ready to cross the finish line, a champion in every way.

And in the stands are thousands of people cheering her on, from both sides of the course: those who have already run their race, and those who are still running, still labouring under the arduous conditions of the course. Everyone is cheering for Martha. The difference is that the ones still on earth - we who remain - are cheering with tears streaming down our faces at the thought of losing one of the last remaining heroes of the faith, of losing our friend. And those of you who have gone before are applauding with the biggest smiles on your faces. You know the calibre of the athlete making her final lap and can't wait to welcome her to the winners circle.

And so now, we hand our beloved Martha over to you, over to God.

Mum, your prayer pal is on her way ...

Dad and Martha having one of their little chats ...

Friday, July 8, 2011

The 55th Anniversary Jam Session

Today is Don's and Norma's 55th anniversary. Fifty-five years ago at the Trochu Lutheran Church he said "I do" and she said "I do too" and that was that!

Tonight we had a little get-together at the TH with some of Don's band members and their dear friends to celebrate that day.

Golden Oldies with Shorty, Don and Jan ...
Shorty is 93 this year!

Between the four couples, we were celebrating 181 years of marriage!

36 years ...

45 years ...

Another 45-year couple!

Cutting the cake - chocolate
with fresh whipped cream and
ruby-red strawberries! 

So many wonderful old songs came to life under the affectionate ministrations of Don, Jan and Shorty. How much fun we in the audience had listening to such classics as Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain and Chantilly Lace and Tennessee Waltz! Then Don and Norma cut their cake and everyone reminisced about the decades past. Where had they gone?!

What I know is, Don and Norma were there for me when I arrived in Canada with no more clue of what I should do than would a kitten. They took me in and gave me a job and helped me plant my roots in what might as well have been a foreign country to me at that point. They are extremely kind, not just to me and my sisters but to so many people and I love them dearly and wish for them great happiness together in the days and years to come.

Happy Anniversary! I love you both, so very much. xo

Monday, July 4, 2011

Love Note From My Dad

This is what greeted me when I came downstairs last Thursday morning. 
What a gift it is to have a father who LIVES a masterclass on
how to show love to your kids in ways large and small! 

Friday, July 1, 2011

O Canada ...

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North, strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada! Where pines and maples grow.
Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow.
How dear to us thy broad domain,
From East to Western Sea,

Thou land of hope for all who toil!
Thou True North, strong and free!

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies
May stalwart sons and gentle maidens rise,
To keep thee steadfast through the years
From East to Western Sea,

REUTERS / Chris Wattie
Our own beloved native land!
Our True North, strong and free!

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our dominion within thy loving care;
Help us to find, O God, in thee
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the Better Day,
We ever stand on guard.

God, keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

REUTERS / Blair Gable
Canada's Governor General David Johnston (L), Britain's Prince William, his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney (R) pose with new Canadian citizens following a citizenship ceremony at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec near Ottawa July 1, 2011.  (NP)

(Except for REUTERS photographers noted, pictures are Deborah Ironside's and my own)