Sunday, 10 June 2012

The many colours of rhododendrons

The start of this week was blessed with cake. I was asked to make two cakes for my friend Chantale’s surprise bridal shower. With there being lack of work at the chocolate factory because we are in the middle of moving I was more than happy to do them. I rolled up my sleeves, slipped on Mama Jo apron and got to work. The small kitchen in my apartment was soon enrobed with the smell of chocolate and vanilla cake and the sound of my “Get out of my kitchen” playlist. At the end of it all my hands felt comfortably gritty with sticky melted sugar between my fingers, a thin layer of egg whites in the palms of my hands, buttery fingertips, cocoa powder on my elbows and flour caked under my finger nails. I missed that feeling. The cakes turned out like a dream, moist, and fluffy. One was deep in chocolaty flavour and sinfully delicious, the other was a hallo of golden colour and taste.

I had contemplated making a simple shortening, butter, and icing sugar frosting for the cakes but my pastry schooling got the better of me and I ambitiously made an Italian butter cream. I think the appeal of the word “Italian” is what swayed my decision. If you know me you know I have an insane infatuation and yearning for Italy. It is my dream to bike across Italy for a month with three simple tasks in mind: biking, site seeing, and eating. The butter cream turned out fluffy and divine and all those who ate cake at the party agreed.

The bridal shower was a hoot! As I like to affectionately call it: a good old fashioned hen party. There were about 20 women crowded into my friend Natalie’s kitchen and living room bubbling with conversation, laughter, and smart comments about marriage and relationships. Amongst the cake there was a chocolate fondue to indulge in, coffee tea, punch, and oodles of fellowship to fill up on. We didn’t play any of those silly and embarrassing bridal shower games like: pin the kiss on the groom, making wedding dresses out of toilet paper, or losing a clothes pin if you cross your legs. Instead we put Chantale to the test and everyone wrote down a question about her and her husband to be and she had to answer it. Some of the questions were: “When was your first kiss?” “How did he propose?” “Is he going to carry you over the threshold or are you going to carry him?” and my personal favourite, “Are you going to breed like Protestants or Catholics?” We howled with laughter and affectionately teased Chantale until she was red in the face. It was a perfect evening for just the gals to get together and let loose.

The rest of the week quickly grew into a bit of a slump. With no word on Wednesday from when work would start up again I tried to keep myself busy and puttered around the house catching up on reading, writing, sketching, and other such relaxing activities. But there was a shadow of anxiety as I realized I was missing a week of pay. I know God will provide for me and this week of rest is a gift to be enjoyed but when you have been conditioned to think that your livelihood depends on what you work rather than what God gives it is hard to curve that mind set. To get me out of my funk my roommate Sandra and I checked out the new Sobeys they had just opened. It was twice the size of the old one with an entire aisle dedicated to international food. Italian pasta, south African curry, escargot seasoning, and other such exotic flavours lined the shelves. I pierced the shelves with a vision for one international food: Dutch food. My search turned up fruitful with stroopwafles (syrup waffles), kaas wafletjes (little cheese waffles), king peppermints, and nasi goreng!! Oh joy of joys, the Dutch have come to town!! I don’t have to ask my sister to send nasi goreng in the mail, or stock up on gegalslag when I come home for visits anymore. Het is heel goed!! I got a little Dutch food crazy and bought more than I needed and I will shamefully admit that between my roommates and I we ate an entire package of stroopwafles in one day, but it was worth it! And here’s a little known fact about the Dutch population on PEI there are 500 Dutch immigrants on the Island. Neat.

On Thursday the sun spilled through the clouds in a glorious shimmer of hope. It was impossible not to go outside and before I knew it I was on my way to Victoria Park to pass the afternoon by the water on my favourite park bench. Armed with my journal and sketch book I clocked away the minutes basking in the warm sunlight and immersed in my imagination. Every now and then I looked up and smiled at a passer by who was equally enjoying the sunshine. I broke out into teasing chuckles more than once when I saw the big pink tour bus rolling by. Oh tourists. I feel that I can say that now with an air of sarcasm and exasperation because I have been a resident of the Island for 9 months. I spotted a cute trio of Asian women gingerly strolling through town with a map unfolded before them. They snapped pictures, pointed excitedly and jabbered back and forth of what I could only imagine was delightful commentary about what they saw. I have seen a few pairs of back packers hike across town as well and the odd group of adventurous cyclists. It’s refreshing to see them and the way their faces light up as they look around. Their shining faces remind me that I can still be romanced and beguiled by the Island and there is still so much to do and see.

After a particularly long stretch in the park I hopped aboard my bike and meandered through town, carefully choosing my route home and picking only the prettiest streets. As I rode slowly through one of the Kings parks I nearly fell over with excitement. There, stretched out in a rainbow of colours was a garden of rhododendrons in almost every colour of the rainbow. Languid creams, bashful pinks, succulent crimsons, sassy violents, shy yellows, and loud oranges exploded over pillows of lush greenery. It was breath taking. I was astounded at the richness in colour, the texture in their blossoms, their intricate design, and the proud unfurl of their petals. I wanted to swim in them! I don’t know how long I spent gazing at them, taking picture after picture, lost in their beauty. As I admired them I felt a flood of warmth surround my heart and I felt so encouraged and affirmed, how can a flower with this much craftsmanship displayed not be crafted by Master hands. God is so creative. Sometimes when I look at the unleashed beauty of nature I think God made it just for His own personal enjoyment and the fact that we get to share in it is a rich and attainable gift.

I pulled out the apron again on Friday and made chocolate pudding and apple tarts. And when the rain came on Saturday afternoon, suddenly cancelling my plans of sea glass hunting, I kept to my room and cleaned. I am proud to say there are considerably less dust bunnies in my room now, oh I still have a pair hopping about keeping me company but most of their friends have been swept up.

I suppose as I look back over my week I can see that I was blessed with rest and refreshment. I found rest in enjoying the slower pace of life especially in the mornings as I sipped coffee and ate stroopwafles. I had visual refreshment in spending time admiring flowers, the rhythm of the ocean, and dappled sunlight. This week was a gift of rest for me and a challenge to recognize that gift and to truly enjoy it without the anxiety of thinking about hours lost at work. How often do we look at time away from work as a punishment, a test, and a time of loss and stress rather than a gift? A gift to catch up on your reading, invite someone out for coffee, invest in your spiritual alone time, or a time to admire the many colours of rhododendrons.

Mmm, fruit for the . . . .

 . . . chocolate fondue!

Surprise Chantale!!!!

Couple of my favourite gals shooting the breeze.

The bride to be and two fabulous cakes. 

Chantale and me.

Stunning beauty around Charlottetown.

The Basilica through the alley.

Languid creams . . .

 . . . loud orange . . .

 . . . shy yellows . . .

 . . . succulent crimson . . .

 . . . and sassy violent rhododendrons. 

A stroll by the beach. 

Epic drift wood. 

Me 'trapped' in the epic drift wood. 

Fearlessly climbing the drift wood. 



More lupins!

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