Tag Archives: cake

On a cake and a prayer

In the small hours of Tuesday morning, I settled into bed and into my 15 minutes of  dedicated, purposeful reading with my current book   Heaven on Earth by Stephanie Dowrick. My bookmark was placed, from the night before, at page 118, and, when I pressed open the pages, this is the prayer that greeted me:

Watch, dear Lord, with those
who wake or weep tonight.
Let your angels guard those who sleep.
Tend the sick.
Refresh the weary.
Comfort those who are dying.
Soothe the suffering.
Have mercy on those who are distressed.
We ask this for your love’s sake.

Augustine of Hippo

I know very little about Augustine of Hippo. I don’t know exactly when he wrote this prayer.  I don’t even know if I like him, or his ideas, or would have liked him way back when. But it moved me deeply  that someone, a hugely long time ago (somewhere, perhaps between 386 and 430 AD) wrote the words that I needed to hear, that I needed formulated for me, in 2014.  It moved me that, on the very day I needed them most, they appeared before me. But, in truth, it was more than being moved; it was more as if Augustine himself,  scroll in hand,  had reached through the ages and said, “Here, take this, I wrote it for you, right here, right now.” Was it a miracle ? (Unlikely)  Was it timely? (Certainly)  Did the prayer work? Possibly, but evidence suggests not for the bone-tired sister I had in mind. But, for me, it did bring some peace and rest and I have repeated this prayer every night since.

Last Sunday, the recent, particularly stressful weeks of  letting ‘nature’ take its heart-breaking course with my daughter’s mental health came to the inevitable conclusion; and she was hospitalized for the sake of her health and well-being. No fun for anyone: not for the daughter, crying uncontrollably; not for the mother listening, helplessly, on the other end of a phone thousands of kilometres away, across land and sea, and not for the on-the-spot aunt, trying to cope, in utter weariness, with the complex needs of elderly, frail parents and a troubled niece.

A few days on, a few prayers later, another phone call to my daughter and I hear words that cradle me: “Mum, they keep bringing us little cakes. They are so delicious. It’s so good to eat cake again. ”  Thank you, thank you, anyone who wants to be thanked. My daughter is delighting in cake once more.

This is only the beginning for my daughter’s recovery. It may even be a false start. Years of less than perfect mental hygiene do not vanish at the pop of a pill or two. Many of the bloggers I follow are affected by mental health issues; by health issues; many are weary; many are caring for family; many are grieving. There is nothing unusual about these situations. They are part of the human condition. As Stephanie Dowrick writes  on page 150 ” First Noble Truth: In life there is suffering.  We free ourselves whenever we ask:  “How can I help?”

And, I would add, by asking, “How can we help each other?”  By being “Angels” for each other? By prayer, by care?  By simply being there, and here, and taking time to listen, to read, to be compassionate and to lighten each other’s load? And by reminding ourselves, over and over, that in life we can also find joy and laughter and fun….and cake. 🙂

Helping  make the Christmas Cake; circa 1988, New York

Helping make the Christmas Cake; circa 1988, New York

© silkannthreades

 

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In other news….of caterpillars and kindnesses

In other news …

of caterpillars….

this is my first ‘ever’ photo of a monarch caterpillar beginning to pupate, (taken on Tuesday 18 February) .

Preparing to Pupate

Preparing to Pupate

I was looking forward to taking another photo, the next day, of the chrysalis but there was a wild wind storm in the night and, when the next day came, I couldn’t see a chrysalis anywhere. 😦

In other news…

of kindnesses……

A while back, on a whim, I sent a ceramic cat to blogger  Megan , to add to her cat collection.  Megan, as some of you may know, blogs about her life with Chester Cat and K, and her personal journey  with OCD. As a thank you for my gift of a little kitty, Megan sent me  two of her special crochet  blooms from her new venture, the Etsy Store,  Peony Crochet.

Blooms from Bloomington

Rose Blooms from Bloomington

Megan is a staunch advocate for Mental Health wellness, and has recently had success in her efforts to bring more sense and kindness and understanding to the media’s portrayal of mental health. She called it   One Small Victory.

To celebrate, Megan’s victory, I thought I would put a rose in my hair,

Bloomin' Beautiful

Bloomin’ Beautiful  (Have you any idea how difficult it is to take a selfie of the back of your head ? !)

and a rose on my hat,

Rose in my hat and ready to pick up my skirt and dance

Rose in my hat and ready to pick up my skirt and dance

and, with a flick of my skirt, dance out the door…..to… ?

But not before acknowledging other kindnesses:

from the friend who gave me the skirt to swish through the swan song of summer;

and the friends who lent me books about travel and gardens,

Going Somewhere?

Going Somewhere?

and what to grow in them;

A Modern Herbal edited by Violet Stevenson

A Modern Herbal edited by Violet Stevenson

and from friend, Sharifah Hamzah, global citizen of  Building Bridges, who sent me a signed copy of her Kampung Memories, as a Book-Giveaway prize.

Kampung Memories by Sharifah Hamzah

Kampung Memories by Sharifah Hamzah

Sharifah’s story “takes you on a trail of getting to know the kampungs of Singapore; its history, and the people who grew up there and lived the life. She also includes her own memories and reflections of kampung life and how it has been a part of her foundation as she navigates her life in other parts of the world.”   I can’t wait to get started, especially after reading this appreciative  review.

In other news…

for all those ‘haters’ of blogs who claim that we obsessively record too much trivia…here’s news for you….

sometimes we don’t record EVERYTHING; sometimes, when kindness arrives on the doorstep, in the guise of a  friend with bowls of delicious, warm apple pie-cake, we are in such a hurry to gobble it down, we forget the photo opportunities, until the plate is empty.

Praise Be

The  swan plant I ordered to replenish my monarch caterpillars’ food supply came yesterday, just in the nick of time. It has been planted,

Praise be for more food

Praise be for more food

and my remaining caterpillars are now busily chomping on their fresh greens. Hopefully, the caterpillars will  have enough food to take them through their fifth  instar and into their chrysalis stage.  Most of them look big enough to be close to their final and complete metamorphosis.

Is this the 5th instar?

Is this the 5th instar?

Whilst the caterpillars are nourishing their bodies in preparation for change, I thought we might do the same. Would you care to indulge?…..

in a taste of the last of summer in this delicious, spicy rhubarb cake

Spicy Rhubarb Cake

Spicy Rhubarb Cake

or, perhaps, in a little something that speaks of cooler mornings and the colder days to come; a gingerbread cake.

Joy of Baking; Gingerbread Cake

Joy of Baking; Gingerbread Cake

But, if you are wanting a lighter indulgence, may I suggest a serving of the apple, instead of the cake.  Again there are two choices; Cherry Gala apples lightly cooked with a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of sugar and a handful of rose petals;

or Royal Gala and Eve  apples , sautéed gently in a sliver of butter and a sprinkle of sugar.

Mmmmm…How was that? Delectable? Are you feeling suitably indulged and ever so glad that we are not limited to one food type like the monarch caterpillar; that we are able to experience so many taste sensations; that we have such variety in our menus.

Praise be to the  butterflies  and bees that make that possible.

~

At 12.51pm today we marked the  third anniversary of the  February 22nd earthquake. At the memorial service in the Botanic Gardens, the Mayor said “Let us unite as we did after the earthquakes. For those of us who have been able to move on, let us reach out to those who are still struggling. .. For those who cannot move on, please do not be afraid to ask for our help… We can get through this together.”

In caterpillar terms, ( because I have this essential life form so much on my mind 😉 ) most of us have made it through the first instar; some of us are almost ready to be butterflies; indeed, may already be  flying freely. Some of us, such as myself, are still  ambling along in the third instar. But there’s no rush. With nourishment and nurture, we will, eventually, be transformed.

( I think I will make a good  butterfly, don’t you?  🙂   Better keep my feet clean, though. Butterflies taste through their ‘feet’! )

© silkannthreades

Convalescence

After several days of procrastination,  my ‘apology’ for a real Christmas cake is finally in the oven, baking gently and moderately. That done, I can now take time to celebrate my mother’s homecoming from hospital which happened this past Saturday morning. And what a cause for celebration that is. The past few weeks have been full of pain and struggle but, at last, thanks to the loving care of my sister and brother, she is home again; home to convalesce.

To convalesce ; to recover health and strength gradually after sickness or weakness; to spend time healing; to grow strong….no busying and  bending to a hospital routine; no poking and prodding and monitoring and measuring; no scrutiny from doctors and students and x-ray machines; only rest, deep rest,

How to rest and recuperate

How to rest and recuperate

food that pleases, gentle movement, and time, to heal the pain and weariness ; that is ‘to convalesce’, from latin, valeo, be well.

Convalescence, a forgotten way of life, perhaps, in a world that constantly sells us the idea  of eternal wellness and vigour  and exhorts us to either be healthy or healthier; that urges us to grasp ease without acknowledging dis-ease; that disallows our physical and spiritual need for times of frailty, by plying us with pills and potions and remedies for a  rapid ‘cure’.

In older times, when illness, and home-based care of it, were more commonplace, recipe  and household books often had sections  with special dishes for invalids or occupants of the sick room. It’s hard to imagine someone like Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay producing a  best seller containing  recipes for the ‘InValid’, but our best-selling New Zealand   Edmonds Cookery Book used to offer helpful hints like this…

Needing validation; here's a hint.

Needing validation; here’s a hint.

And our famous  Nurse Maude, founder of our community nursing service, suggested, in her book, oatmeal drinks and gruel for the patient’s sustenance.

I am not sure how well I would do on Nurse Maude’s diet but  I would love a tray, such as this one,  to arrive, in the early light,  at my place of convalescence. Fresh flowers from the morning garden, blackcurrants from the home bush, creamy yogurt and strawberries, to nourish the body, and  blessings and calm to nurture  the soul.

A tray for being well

A tray for being well

What more could a patient ask for..oh, just one thing….a moment of grace read to me from one of the most beautifully photographed books of my  childhood world,  A Child’s Grace by  Constance Bannister.

Grace of a Child

Grace of a Child

Amen. Amen.

© silkannthreades

Taking Care of Details

My horoscope says that I must pay attention to detail today because that will get me further than being slapdash. And I must not rush. Fine by me; the ‘must not rush’ bit. I am all for the relaxed life. Besides, I am not sure where I am supposed to be going , in such a hurry, anyway, especially as  I am still in my very old house clothes. Slapdash is a little more difficult  to avoid since I have already slap-dashed the kitchen with my cake-making efforts. However, if I have followed the recipe carefully, and  in detail, all should be well. ( So, take that, horoscope!)

I have been making Canadian War Cake

Canadian War Cake

Canadian War Cake

which is a variant of Boiled Fruit Cake or Great Depression Cake;

Great Depression Cake

Great Depression Cake

that is, a cake which is usually eggless, butterless and milkless and relatively easy to make when  money or ingredients are scarce. The recipe I am using is from a reproduction copy (complete with reproduced  age-old stains)  of   “Nurse Maude’s Household Book”. The original book was published at the beginning  of the 20th Century to raise money for the our local District Nursing Association and was sold for one shilling.

Nurse Maude's Household Book

Nurse Maude’s Household Book

The reproduction copy that I own was also sold as a fundraiser (cost $10.00)P1030372 for the  Nurse Maude Organisation which  continues to provide home nursing care and hospice/palliative care for our community. Nurse Maude has provided services to our city and surrounding areas for 115 years, and it all started with one Sibylla Emily Maude ,

Nurse Maude Herself

Nurse Maude Herself

born in Christchurch 11 August 1862. http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2m42/maude-sibylla-emily

“Emily Sibylla Maude was a pioneer in nursing, dedicating her life to serving the needs of the poor. Her death, in Christchurch on July 12 1935, marked the beginning of the first and most recognised, district nursing scheme in New Zealand. The eldest of 8 children, Nurse Maude was born in Christchurch in St Peter’s Parish on August 11 1862.

Her interest in nursing began as a hospital visitor and in 1889 she went to England to train at Middlesex Hospital as a paying Lady Probationer.

In November 1892 she set sail for home and started work as Matron of Christchurch Hospital, but in October of 1896, seeing the increasing need of the community, she took her nursing to the streets of Christchurch to nurse and care for the poor. Within her first year, Nurse Maude had made more than 1,000 visits on foot, firmly establishing the first district nursing service in New Zealand as an integral part of the community.”

My grandmothers were great admirers of Nurse Maude. Her funeral was a huge event and many hundreds turned up  to honour her.  I think my grandmother and my mother were amongst the hundreds  who went  to pay their respects.

I am also a  great admirer of the Nurse Maude organisation, in its modern manifestation.   In years past, I have been very grateful for their home nursing services. And, nowadays, I often buy goods from their Shops and, from time to time, their frozen meals are my life savers.  Fortunately, on this warm spring afternoon, all I really need from Nurse Maude is a slice of her War Cake; the recipe for which she guarantees is reliable.

Small details:  Nurse Maude is referred to as Sibylla Emily Maude and sometimes Emily Sibylla in the articles I have researched! Oh,and I wish she had a recipe for hayfever. The warm spring afternoon is playing havoc with my allergies 😦

© silkannthreades

Spring equilibrium

So, what does one do on the day after a night of reckless over indulgence on cake and cookies and chocolate,  in my night kitchen?

Why , one ventures outdoors, of course, because Mother (Nature, that is) knows best how to return equilibrium to body and soul. So, that is what we did on this beautiful spring day. We sat by the water side, at Northwood, and watched the world and its wonders. We were in good company.

There were ducks, both on and off the water.

Come on in; the water's cool.

Come on in; the water’s cool.

And there was a family of ducks, with Mother and Father Duck being kept very busy with the activity of their one, little, early bird duckling.

Up on the rise, a pair of ducks was resting and, perhaps, contemplating, as they watched the dizzy whizzing of the ducks below, if they were ready for parenthood.

Contemplating duckling antics

Contemplating duckling antics

By the water’s edge, we saw two, sweetly serene seagulls, blissfully unaware of the raucous behaviour coming from the other seagulls perched on nearby rooftops.

And, then ,there was the lone Pukeko who came close enough to greet us but  decided that searching for food was a much more profitable way to spend the day. And, would we mind our own business, please!

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Lastly, before leaving for home, we communed with  pretty things, particularly pretty, spring things.

© silkannthreades

Such is life; shadows and sunbeams

I have been very weary and a little down-hearted these past few weeks; mainly on account of my lingering cold/cough, the cold grip of winter weather and a general lack of sunshine. And let’s not forget the ever lasting wait for builders to appear. But just when I  feel that the daily shadows are becoming far too long for comfort, life suddenly throws  out a wondrous ray of sunshine that makes me beam with joy. Such was life today.

I was looking for some photos to illustrate a post I had in mind when I came upon this  gentle gem from my distant, distant past.This is my brother caring for me when I was about four and a half weeks old.   He has been doing it ever since; and he hasn’t dropped me yet :).

And the caring love begins

And the caring love begins

I also happened upon these sweet photos. I have certainly seen them before but, until today, I hadn’t truly noticed them, or absorbed the information they contain. They are photos taken on my christening day, which, I learn from the writing on the reverse of the pictures, was on 11 July. Which means that last Thursday was the anniversary of my christening.  They also show me that my maternal grandparents were present at my christening. I am surprised to learn this. It is not  unusual for grandparents to be at a christening but these grandparents had to travel by ship from Christchurch, New Zealand to Lautoka, Fiji for my christening. Quite a journey, in those days.  I also see that Janie, my dear Janie, was with me from the very start of my life. Even though I remember her well, I didn’t realise that she was with me from the beginning. No wonder, I was deeply sad when she left us to marry. I couldn’t understand why being married should require her to leave me. I don’t think she did either but it seems her husband  insisted. How I missed her warmth and her cuddles and her gentleness. They are with me still.

The one photo that holds few surprises is that of the christening cake. It is set on a table in our garden because my christening took place in our  home garden; there being no Presbyterian church in our town; and only the occasional visit from  an itinerant Presbyterian minister.  I think the cake  was iced by my father, who had considerable skill in the art of cake decorating. ( He always made us the most wonderful birthday cakes.)  I expect the cake itself was made by my parents. The only real surprise is the travel rug under the cake? Was that a christening gift? It doesn’t seem a very elegant table covering for a christening. And the cake looks as though it is close to falling off the edge of the table! Was the cake tipsy? Surely not at a Presbyterian christening.

Those were my smiles for today; my little taste of sunshine. Dear parents, I enjoyed being at my christening; thank you!

© silkannthreades