Christmas 2

        As mentioned last week, today’s Post covers both days of the weekend as I was just a tad occupied yesterday!
        Here we are on the Eve of Epiphany. Oh! The Advent & Christmas Season is so short and looking ahead at the dark months of January and February can be a trifle daunting, so for today we will look back at the week just ended!
        In true Canadian fashion it is proper to begin by lamenting about THE WEATHER!!! My goodness how ghastly was a week where the thermometer dipped to -40C for several days? For me that came with a backdrop of a furnace oil tank, which was once again registering “empty”. Sadly Elvis was unreachable, being on “Construction Holiday”. After several sleepless nights, anticipating the immanent shut-down of the furnace and the ensuing frozen pipes, I managed to contact our previous oil providers who, at 8am yesterday morning, grudgingly delivered ¼ of a tank at a truly exorbitant price. Sigh.
      Despite the ghastly weather this was a pretty intense week from beginning to end, which is largely why I am not at church this morning. The other reason for being at home is that, sadly, Pastor Nick is quite ill with bronchitis and so our monthly Eucharist has been postponed until next week. I had planned a simple Epiphany activity for children but was forewarned that none of the regulars would be in attendance and so opted for a good night’s rest and a final blast of beautiful Christmas CDs at home this morning!
 …But here I am reporting on the week in reverse order again!Back to Monday…
      Monday morning Stella (mother of the Bride) called and suggested meeting, where the whole family was staying (over at Isaiah 40) to discuss plans for the Wedding Tea, which took place yesterday.So I bundled up and went over to meet them. The original plan had been to have a High Tea (for 50!) but it was soon evident that the menu was going to digress from my conservative viewpoint on the correct components of a traditional High Tea. After a certain amount of negotiating we came up with a list of foods and I was commissioned to make 6 loaves of sandwiches (2 each of 3 kinds) and “The Cake”.
      For those of you who are wondering what all of this has to do with the world of Day Camps perhaps a bit more background info is necessary! The Sweetman family was involved in Day Camps right from it’s inception in 1979. At that time we were all members of St. Matthew’s Church and Vina Sweetman, the then Director of Day Camps and now grandmother of Laura, the Bride, is the person who first convinced my parents to take a Day Camp Billet and thus to introduce our family into a Ministry which has shaped my whole adult life. Vina has known me since I was short and fat with pigtails, I grew up with her 3 older offspring and taught Sunday School to her youngest. Shall we say that our families go back a long way!
      Returning to “The Cake”… When both Stella and her sister Esther were getting married, my Mum, the then doyen of St. Matthew’s catering group, was in charge of their Rehearsal Dinners and I was co-opted to make large cakes, each of which were decorated with maps on which the betrotheds’ home cities were “joined” by a bridge; so, yes, I had to do the same for Laura and Jesse’s cake.
       They are not being married until June but since the wedding will take place in Jesse’s hometown, near Edmonton Alberta, yesterday’s Tea was an opportunity for many family members and friends to gather and celebrate since some of them will not be travelling to the wedding itself.
      Tuesday was filled with 2 unexpected visits. In the morning The Howarths descended upon me. Randy is a long-time Day Camp groupie, former Team Leader,committee member and current editor of CTM’s newsletter “The Networks”. Come to think of it, I actually made his and Li’s wedding cake too! They now have 2 little ones, Julia (2 ½) and John (1) so we had quite an eventful visit the highlight of which, for me, was watching Julia sing “Head and Shoulder, Knees and Toes” while pointing to the various body parts on Wil. Wil lay on the sofa allowing her to touch even “Eyes, Ears, Mouth and Nose” over and over. It was REALLY cute!!
     Then in the evening I had an impromptu dinner guest in Jillian, who came on her way to a New Year’s Eve Party, bearing a Christmas Gift of honeycomb, from an apiary in Manitoba. Her sister, Joanne is currently working at a camp north of Winnipeg and has helped out at the apiary too. We enjoyed a simple meal of clam chowder and cheese scones and I set a table in front of the fire, providing a warm oasis in the frigid house.

New Year’s Day was REALLY cold so I hunkered down with Wil and my knitting (a tiny “hoodie” for my friend Michelle’s new baby) and we kept each other fairly warm! I was also able to finish a “Gnome Maiden” as part of Seren’s birthday gift and made a red bag to wrap everything in! Thursday cooking began for the Tea and Friday I spent the morning at home baking the cake and the afternoon over at Isaiah 40 making the 6 loaves of sandwiches. Since all of this was to be a surprise, there was a lot of phoning back and forth to ensure the coast was clear. Mercifully I am often over there doing stuff anyway so even though Laura turned up while I was making sandwich filling she didn’t seem curious at my presence.
     And so we come to yesterday’s Tea.  The cake was iced and decorated and picked up by 11am, and then following a brisk round of shovelling (in slightly warmer conditions), and a quick lunch, Wil and I then hurried over to begin kitchen duty.
    Once the kitchen got organised preparations moved along apace and everything was under control by the time Laura and Jesse arrived. They had time to change into party attire before the throngs descended and everyone began by playing games in the basement Hall. Fortunately (not being a “games person”) I was able to remain safely in the kitchen boiling vast amounts of water for the tea which Stella had brought from New Delhi (she is with the Canadian Embassy and the family has lived on almost every continent!)
      Everyone then trooped upstairs for tea followed by the opening of gifts, during which time a vast amount of dishwashing took place. There was also time for a little visit with my Godsons, William and Alexander, as the Huyers had driven down from Ottawa for the occasion and I was FINALLY able to give them all their Christmas gifts!
      Once the guests departed the family helped wrap up leftovers and put away clean china etc.I made it home about 8pm, accompanied by a very hungry Wil, who usually eats around 5!
      What a blessing it was to reconnect with these dear friends with whom for years, at St. Matthew’s, we were in almost daily contact and who now are scattered across the globe. I never need reminding of how precious it was to have had a church family and how much I
miss it.  Seeing all of them and slipping back into easy familiarity one with another was a poignant reminder of those years.
At this Season when the Holy Family is at the root of our celebrations, it is doubly important that we should be mindful to live daily to the fullest, valuing each person as a gift from our Lord who ultimately creates every family.
      This had been quite the week! As of tomorrow the great “Changing of the Decorations” begins, the results of which will be reported on in our next.
My apologies for a bit of a “Marathon” post!! It seems fitting to conclude with the recipe for “The Cake”.  There are many occasions when a truly BIG cake is needed and many of these have been baked over the years. You can always cut the ingredients in half if you just want a 9×13 cake!
  Mennonite Golden Cake
  • 2 cups butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 6 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Lightly grease a large rectangular roasting pan (or 2 9×13 pans) and line with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pans, set aside. Preheat the oven to 350F. In a very large bowl, cream the butter either by hand or with an electric mixer. Beat in the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until well combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together he flour, salt and baking powder. Combine the milk and vanilla in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low, or by hand, gradually beat in the dry and wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the
flour mixture. 
With a large rubber spatula spread the batter evenly in the pan(s) Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan and then turn out onto a cake board.
  • Approx. 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 Tbsps. butter
  • 2 tsps. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg white
  • Confectioners’ gel-type food colouring
  • Icing bag with decorative tips.
It is best to make the main icing in 2 batches. For each batch, in the bowl of a food processor, combine 2 cups sugar, 1 Tbsp. butter, 1 tsp. vanilla and ¼ cup milk. Process until smooth and
creamy, adding extra sugar if necessary, to produce a good spreading consistency. 
Ice the cooled cake first with a thin “crumb coat” of icing and then with a finishing coat. Set aside until icing is firm to the touch. Meanwhile make the Royal Icing. Sift 1 cup of sugar into a small bowl and mix with the egg white. Add more sugar until you have the right consistency for placing in an icing bag with decorative tips. Divide the Royal Icing into several very small bowls and colour as desired. Keep unused portions covered with plastic wrap as it hardens quite quickly. Decorate the cake, allow icing to Harden and then cover with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature until ready to serve. Leftovers will keep for several days or can be frozen.
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