Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Three Close Encounters with the British Royal Family

Yes it is true, I've had three close encounters with the British royal family - well maybe the close part is a bit of a stretch, but three encounters nevertheless.  Well maybe encounters is not quite the right word - how about stories.  Yes, three stories about the royal family.  

Story #1
The year was 1977.
The Queen was celebrating her Silver Jubilee.
I was an exchange student in the Netherlands and in June visited England and was able to enjoy the Silver Jubilee festivities.  I saw the Queen on a barge on the Thames.  She was the small turquoise dot - that waved at me!

My Silver Jubilee souvenir teaspoon

Story #2
The year was 1981.
Hubby and I got married in February and ten days later the announcement was made that Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were to be married.  I watched with interest as she planned her wedding as I had just gone through the same thing.  

Hubby and I had summer jobs that year in Northern Ontario:  he was working on the pipeline and I was collecting tree samples for a professor.  We lived in small tourist cabins when the weather was cold and camped when the weather was warmer.  By the time July 29th rolled around and it was time for the royal wedding, we had been living in the bush for almost three months, five weeks of which had been spent tent camping.   We decided that we would  treat ourselves to a nice hotel room so we could watch the wedding on TV.  The nearest town was Dryden and we opted for one of the best places in town, the Riverview Lodge.  It had a picturesque dining room that was in an old log building.  I loved the contrast between the rustic wood walls and ceiling and stone fireplace and the patterned carpets and fine china.  I looked online for a photo of it so you could see what I mean and these were the best I could find.

Riverview Lodge

After we had enjoyed a lovely dinner complete with a glass of wine, we went to our room for the night.  We were surprised and dismayed that the room was not only small and very basic, but had NO TV (I hasten to add that it was thirty years ago and the place has since been remodeled).   We went to the front desk to see what they could do and they very kindly brought a TV from the owner's home for us to use.  Thus we did get to join the 750 million other viewers and watch the wedding.  I will always remember feeling that Diana and I couldn't be any further apart, with Diana living in such refined elegance and me in my grubby unsophisticated bubble of tents and trees and bugs. Fortunately our lives were different in other ways as well, as my prince turned out to be the real prince charming.

Story #3
The year was 1983.
In June the Prince and Princess of Wales came to Canada for their first official visit.
Hubby, my two sisters, and I went to Ottawa to brave the crowds and see them.  

Diana, Princess of Wales with Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the Prime Minister at the time (on the right) in Ottawa, June 1983 (photo taken by me)

Prince Charles (and the edge of Diana's hat to his left) (photo taken by me)

Prince Charles inspecting the guards (photo taken by me)

And so you can see what Diana really looked like that day, here is a photo from the newspaper.  Didn't she look lovely!

Toronto Star
I think it is worth mentioning that 1981 was the year the Prince and I got married, and thirty years later, 2011 is the year my son and Prince William will get married.  Hmm, not sure that came out the way I intended.

I just read that William and Kate will be visiting Canada in June.  Unfortunately I will be out of the country at that time so they won't get to visit me.  I'm sure they will still have a nice visit though!

Linked to Royal Wedding Party Ideas at Decor to Adore

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Prince William's Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Who wouldn't want the recipe for a scrumptious chocolatey dessert, and this one is not just any chocolatey dessert, but Chocolate Biscuit Cake that will be served at William and Kate's wedding on Friday.   

My father found the recipe for Prince William's favourite cake in the Toronto Star newspaper and offered to make it for our Easter dinner.  So with a new springform pan and some assistance from my Mother in melting chocolate, he made this delicious Chocolate Biscuit Cake.

According to the article, the Queen would request that the chef make Chocolate Biscuit Cake when William was visiting from Eton.  Since Prince William is having it as his groom's cake for the royal wedding on Friday I'm posting the recipe ahead of time so you will have a few days to find the ingredients to make your own cake to enjoy while watching the wedding.

The main ingredient in the recipe is McVitie's Rich Tea Biscuits so this cake is more like a thick chocolate cookie than a true cake.  The McVitie's Cake Co. has been asked to make the cake for the royal wedding.  My Dad said that they were not able to find these exact biscuits so he substituted Christie's Social Tea Biscuits, but really any plain tea biscuit would work as long as you keep the quantity the same.

4 tbsp (60 ml) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated sugar
4 oz (11o g) dark chocolate, chopped
1 large egg, beaten
8 oz (225 g) McVitie's Rich Tea Biscuits, about 28 biscuits broken into almond-sized pieces
8 oz (225 g) dark chocolate, chopped - for the icing

1. Line bottom of 7-inch (18 cm) springform pan with parchment paper and butter sides of the pan.
2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy using electric mixer on medium setting.
3. In double boiler melt 4 oz chocolate.
4.  Stir in butter mixture.
5.  Stir in egg.
6.  Remove from heat and add biscuits, stirring until well mixed.
7.  Spoon mixture into springform pan filling all gaps and refrigerate for three hours until set.
8.  Remove pan and turn cake upside-down on cooling rack set over a parchment lined baking sheet.
9.  Melt 8 oz chocolate in double boiler.
10. Pour the melted chocolate over the cake, smoothing it on the top and sides.
11.  Let stand for one hour until set.
12.  Carefully remove cake from the cooling racks and place on serving plate.
Serves 8

The cake needed to be cut on a cutting board with a serrated knife and even still was difficult to cut without little pieces breaking off, however, it more than made up for itself with how delicious it was.

Now grab yourself a cuppa (cup of tea that is) and make some Chocolate Biscuit Cake to enjoy along with William and Kate.

Linked to Royal Wedding Party Ideas at Decor to Adore
Good Life Wednesday at A Beach Cottage
Saturday Night Spotlight at Love Where You Live

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Fun

When I think back on how my day unfolded my mind is filled with memories of:

  • sunshine
  • forsythia and daffodils
  • chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate
  • Easter dinner

And here's a sneak peak of what we ate for dessert.  I'm going to share the recipe in another post when I have time to write it up, but all I can say is this cake has a great story and tastes delicious.

Stay tuned!

Happy Easter

May God bless you at Easter,
and keep you all year through.

May God give you all the faith you need,
to make your dreams come true.

May His love and wisdom always help,
to guide you on your way.

May His light shine down upon you now,
to bless your Easter Day.

an old Irish Easter Blessing - author unknown

Happy Easter to all my bloggy friends!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Blustery Day in Oakville

With a free afternoon yesterday it seemed like the perfect time to catch up with a girlfriend.  We went to Oakville, a quaint historic town on the shore of Lake Ontario, and drove around looking at the beautiful old houses and then went for a walk along the waterfront.

One of the houses had the most magnificent display of scillia.  While we were there taking pictures, several other cars also stopped to admire the flowers.

We walked around the historic Erchless Estate (c. 1858), which was the home of Colonel Chisholm who founded Oakville.  The house is now a musuem which I really need to visit when it is open as I've never been inside.  I love the position of prominence the house has on a hill overlooking the harbour and lake.  Can you imagine what a view you would get from the widow's walk up on top.

The gardens were just starting to spring to life and mostly had scillia, a few daffodils, and two brave tulips.


The air was cold and the wind was whipping the water up into a frenzy of splashing, crashing wave action.

The seagulls were enjoying the challenge of staying on the pier,

and I was enjoying the challenge of capturing pictures of waves mid-crash.

The colours were captivating with the gray skies and water, the red lighthouse, and yellow mooring posts on the pier.  

The colours have been altered in the picture above using Picnik, an on-line photo-editing programme, but I'm kind of liking the vintage look.  What about you - do you prefer the natural colours or the aged look?

Linked to Sweet Shot Tuesday at Life with my Three Boybarians

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ukrainian Church Architecture

When we went to the Easter sale at St. Elias the Prophet Church on the weekend and bought the bread and Pysanky (which you can read about here), we also went upstairs to tour the inside of the church.  Although the church building looks very traditional and as if it has been there for ages - well maybe not there, but in the Ukraine - it was in fact only built in 1995.  

The church is in the style of the Byzantine wooden architecture traditional to the western Ukraine.  I love the wooden shingles covering the domes and all the wood siding - looking a little water-logged in this photo because it was raining.

The front door and carved pillars look so rustic.

Inside the sanctuary there are only pews around the edges with a wide open space in the middle as they stand for their services.

Above the sanctuary is one of the domes all colourfully painted with pictures of saints and scenes from the Bible.

I wasn't expecting to see a Pharaoh's headdress in a Ukrainian church, but it makes sense since Joseph from the Old Testament rose to second-in-command in Egypt.  Don't you love the scrolly grape vines that link the pictures together.

The pretty design in the photo below, was one of my favourite parts of the decoration in the church.  I love the gray-blue with the orange and the touches of gold.

There are no electric lights in the church.  The priest told us that it is because you can't pray with harsh electric lights on, so they only have soft gas lights and candles during services.  I think he may have something there.  I love it when the lights are turned out at a Christmas Eve service and we sing by candlelight and this church must be gorgeous by candlelight with all the gold leaf decorating the walls.

Around the edges of the sanctuary are these candle chandeliers that I thought looked quite striking in their simplicity with all the ornate paintings and decorations.  The priest assured me that they would soon be replaced as they just came from IKEA.  I love it! IKEA decorations can even be found in an ornate Ukrainian Catholic church.  Who would have thought.

It must be Ukrainian heritage month at Sense and Simplicity or something - how else do you explain it!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pysanky Easter Eggs

You might be under the impression that I'm Ukrainian, what with me showing you all these Ukrainian Easter eggs and all.  However, that would be incorrect - I'm really an Anglo-European dog's breakfast blend who just happens to like pysanky or Ukrainian Easter Eggs.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to an Easter fair with my parents at a church out in the country called St. Elias the Prophet.  Well, let's just say it made me want to be Ukrainian.

There were gorgeous hand-painted pysanky eggs.  If you want to see some pysanky made by an amateur with a shaky hand look here, but if you want to see what the pros make, check these out:

The eggs were decorated with horses, roosters, deer, oak leaves, crosses, stars, wheat, rakes and other symbols all with special meaning to the Ukrainian people.

I loved that there was a handout with an explanation about the meaning behind the decorations used on the eggs.  I took a picture of a part of the sheet explaining about the leaves and animals.

I didn't know that the style of decorations used on the pysanky varied from region to region in the Ukraine.  This is just a small sample of the regions they displayed.

Not only were there pysanky eggs at the Easter fair, but there were also beeswax candles, and handmade chocolates, and embroidery, 

and yummy Easter breads - some with braided crosses on top, some that had been baked in cans, and some that had been baked in special lamb-shaped molds.

After surveying all the goodies we bought some bread, some chocolate, and a couple of the pysanky.  With the huge selection  it was very difficult to decide which ones to choose. 

I finally chose these two beauties.

Yep it's definitely enough to make me want to be Ukrainian.  

Linked to Mosaic Monday at Little Red House