Thursday, 20 April 2017

Thursday, or Thereabouts - April 20, 2017

Off and Writing

While I'm making good an escape to Spring Thaw, my annual writing retreat, let me treat you to an escape to the Great Wall of China, a souvenir of our trip to China in April 2014.

Check it out here:

I'm firing up my pens to lay down amazing words, phrases, sentences and paragraph on cream-coloured sheets of paper...

See you back here in a week.

©2017 April Hoeller 

Monday, 17 April 2017

Monday Moanings - April 17, 2017

Leftovers and Takeaways

It was a grand long weekend of fun and accomplishments, feasts and fine weather - a fitting greeting to the season of renewal. Friday was indeed good, very good for a little garden clean up, servicing of the snowblower for storage, switching out of the winter tires for summer, washing AND waxing the car.

                                                    Baking bread...

And one other task - polishing the silver.
Fifty plus years ago, Good Friday was the day my mother, sisters and I gathered around the kitchen table to polish 8 full place settings and serving pieces. If we were hosting the whole "fam-damily" then the coffee urn and tea service were added to the polishing list. Silver place settings have long since fallen out of favour, replaced largely by dishwasher proof stainless steel. Friday, I only had to polish a pie server and a pair of candle holders.

Still, there is something very comforting about removing stains of darkness and renewing shine and sparkle. It's an Easter takeaway, a gift of remembrance and tradition.

Saturday brought April showers and downpours too. A great day for the indoor cleaning spree. In this house that translates into a massive "de-furring" of the rugs, flooring, and furniture. The resident canine, the main contributor to the gargantuan fur bunnies that decorate every nook and cranny, appropriately makes herself scarce during these search and destroy missions. I think she actually uses the time to plan her next carpet bombing.

Housecleaning is not a regular chore of mine. Why if I kept on top of the dusting and de-furring, I'd never be able to truly appreciate the amazing swath of clean a dampened cloth can leave behind.

The joy of Spring cleaning and an evening walk after the rain - another Easter weekend takeaway.

Then Sunday - the festival day.

Easter baskets filled with chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and more candy. Also bones and bickies for Sophie dog.

Good conversation with healthy infusions of silliness and love.

Followed by the feast.

Monday is all about leftovers.
The fragrance of the few lily blooms in the vase of cut flowers wafts by from time to time today, twitching my nostrils each time (just two lilies makes for a good dose of scent!). A reminder of the work and wonder and love of Easter.

The pie will be gone by mid-afternoon, given the current rate of consumption. It is as of this writing half of what it is in this picture.

The veggies will round out tonight's supper.

The ham will be carved up into slices for sandwiches, chunks for stir-frys and last but by no means least, a ham bone soup will soon be simmering away. As lovely and warm as this past weekend has been, including the showers, God knows as do I, that there are still a few clunkers and throwbacks left in the weather department, days that can only be redeemed by hearty comfort food.

I'm not going to make it to the gym today.

It's already after twelve and besides, I'm still savouring my Easter weekend.
The Takeaways and Leftovers are a good enough workout for my soul.

©2017 April Hoeller

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Thursday, or Thereabouts - April 13, 2017

Easter 2017

Somewhere back in the mists of time these days before Easter were jam packed with command performances of worship liturgies; eight or even nine of them from Palm/Passion Sunday through Easter Day. In the sacramental traditions of the Christian Church, this is Holy Week, but in all my years of working in church land, these days were anything but holy. For clergy and support staff, choirs, and altar guilds, the week is a marathon, sometimes an unholy circus, of bulletin printing, chancel colour changes, rehearsals, and homilies. It's an annual organizational nightmare just in the preparation.

It's also a week when life outside the doors of the church carried on as usual. Accidents, illnesses, personal crises, and death were constant companions, each one needing pastoral care and compassion.

The worship services never quite went according to plan: something broke, something was forgotten. someone, a key liturgical assistant perhaps, didn't show up ("Sorry pastor - we decided to go to the cottage for the long weekend."). Sometimes the weather competed with the rituals - torrential rain put a damper on the new fire, or gusty winds caused the fire to roar with flames that threatened to set the pastor on fire, then later blew out the light of Christ.

But Easter morning always arrived right on schedule. There is nothing quite like being the first person to open the doors of a lily-filled church at 7:15 Easter morning. What begins as a strong but pleasant announcement of floral decorations, in less than a minute balloons into a dizzying, nose-hair twitching, throat-gagging stink bomb.

How did I manage both my family celebrations, with all the trimmings - dying eggs, hiding eggs, hunting for eggs, and of course the big feast - and the Church? Well I know I had more energy 10 to 20 years ago than I do now, but I also know who got the shortest end of the stick - Me - and the Church got the longest.

Well, that was then. Now I choose to stage a family feast. Way fewer rules equal way more room for love.

My family will gather on Easter Day as we are able, to dine on ham, glazed with sweetened mustard and decorated with pineapple slices and maraschino cherries, scalloped potatoes, dark brown around the edges, and a medley of roasted Spring vegetables. There will be apple pie for dessert, with whipped cream piled on top. And I will find time at some point to meet up with God in the garden and talk about sacrifice, gratitude, and love.

My late mother, struggling with Alzheimer's,
decorated this wooden egg in 2002. 

This week is really no different than any other week of the year. The sun rises and sets each day, the world turns, people are born, people die, crises come and go, as do blessings and breakthroughs. Life happens. That's really what my holy week is all about - the good, the bad, and the ugly all make an appearance and I celebrate the joy of being alive. I am loved and I love.

The ham is in the house. Spring is in the air.  I've got chocolate.  And I've got jelly beans!

Happy Easter!

©2017 April Hoeller

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Thursday, or Thereabouts - April 6, 2017

The Cookbook

Good for body and soul,
Seasoned with love,
Sweet with memories.

It began as an idea in the very early summer of 2010. My son, living in private married quarters on a military base, asked for the recipe for a family favourite, beef paprikash. Easily done! But that gave me a bigger idea. How about a whole cookbook full of family recipes. And because I have two children, there would have to be two copies made.

I was pumped. The Christmas 2010 gift list was off to a great and unusually early start. Out I went to the big craft store to buy identical 8 x 8 albums and a package of assorted pastel coloured scrapbooking paper.

I then compiled a list of recipes, only about forty of them (X2 books)! Not much more happened over the summer, a summer that brought my mother's final illness and death.

For eight years, my sister and I spent all or part of most Fridays together taking care of Mom's needs in the nursing home and taking care of each other as we made our way through the wilderness of Alzheimer's Disease. After Mom died, neither my sister nor I was quite ready to give up our Fridays together. By mid-September, with my son serving in Afghanistan and my daughter working in Hong Kong, I had all the more reason to keep busy. Out came the cookbook project.

With my sister's expertise in scrapbooking techniques and her encouragement - I was never a fan of cut and paste - we now spent Fridays at her house. She continued her work on the family history albums while I wrote out recipes on cardstock, mounted them on coloured pages, then tackled the hardest part, 'decorating' the pages with stickers and borders.

The oldest recipe I wrote up for the book

Over the weeks, our lunch breaks got longer and then the visits themselves petered out. Our lives began to evolve in new ways, without Mom. The cookbook project fell into a bottom drawer, a jumble of pages, recipe cards, packages of stickers, and good intentions. Every once and a while, often when a grand celebration was nearing, I dug out the scrapbooking stuff, more out of guilt than sustainable motivation, and completed an afternoon's worth of pages, four on a good day! Then back in the drawer, it all went. Christmases, birthdays and anniversaries came and went without the finished work making an appearance.

In these last few months though the cookbook has become one of those nagging bits of unfinished business that begs for completion. So much so that, thoughts about it competed for space in my "write" mind, pushing the memoir to the side. Perhaps it was my mother, a master in the kitchen, reaching out to implore me to get cooking.

So many of our family favourites came from her kitchen and her mother's before her.

In the last three weeks, I spent a few afternoons writing out the remaining recipes, about fifteen of them (remember: X 2), on the white cards, then erased the pencil lines I'd so carefully marked on each so that I could write straight, and tucked it all away again in that bottom drawer. Last Friday morning I decided that a marathon scrapbooking session was in order. I was determined to finish the two copies of "Mom's Cookbook" to give to my children when we gathered on Sunday to celebrate the family birthdays (my daughter's, my husband's, and mine).

Overcoming a near disaster Saturday afternoon when the Exacto blade slipped, taking a slice out of my left index finger - no blood hit the pages, which had to be some kind of miracle - I finished the job at 10:30 Sunday morning. An hour later the gift-wrapped books and I were on our way to the city. Phew!

I don't know who was more thrilled - my son and daughter for finally receiving them, or me for finally being able to gift the books. I do know that my mother would be very pleased. She wrote out so many recipes for me when I had a young family.

I felt her hand on my shoulder several times as I wrote out her recipes, now in books for her grandchildren. It feels so very right to have handed on the tradition of good cooking to two more masters of the kitchen, during this of all weeks - her birthday week too (April 5, 1921).

Happy Birthday, Mom. 

©2017 April Hoeller

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Thursday, or Thereabouts - April 1, 2017

April Fools!

I've been busy writing this week. Ink flowed. Meal times fell off the radar. The days slid past.

Yes - the memoir writing has picked up! It feels exciting. It feels satisfying. It feels so very wonderful to be back at it.

So while I continue to put pen to paper on this April Fools' Day, check out last year's April Fools' Day post:

See you back here on Monday.

©2017 April Hoeller