Wednesday 27 November 2013

Hearty Beef Stew

Yesterday was the grayest of gray days. ~

It will take some serious comfort food to chase away the gloom.  What could be hardier than an old fashioned root vegetable beef stew?

All it takes is some stewing beef from grass fed cows, a little organic, whole wheat flour, some sea salt and fresh ground pepper to get started.  Dredge the stewing beef in the the flour and spices and brown in some oil.  I've used coconut oil and a bit of butter to brown mine. ~

Toss in some onions ~

and a good splash of red wine. ~

Start adding whatever root veggies you have on hand.  I've used potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and squash.  Turnip or squash are essential to give this meal it's earthy flavour!  Some parsley, a bay leaf (remove before serving) and some rosemary crank it up another notch.~

A combination of beef stock and water is added to barely cover the vegetables.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let it all simmer for a couple of hours. ~

Grab an old fashioned fork and ironstone bowl, with a hot from the oven biscuit, and dig in! ~

The snow began to fall and by morning we have the Christmas spirit in the yard! ~

I'm sharing this with:  Feathered Nest FridayCreate It Thursday

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Raising Feral Kittens

Do you remember those cute kittens I brought home to foster in the summer?  One was adopted out and I kept the two girls.  I love cats but it's sure been a wild ride with these two!

Michaela has lovely, silky fur. ~

Clara Jane is a champion purrer, full of fun and wants to do whatever I'm doing. ~

They are adorable and they are very, very wild!  Their mother was a true feral cat.  If you consider adopting the offspring of a feral mother, make sure you know the difference between feral and stray cats.  Stray cats have had significant contact with humans and, even if they are skittish and frightened, can be re tamed and become great house pets.  Feral cats and their offspring have lived without human contact and are not comfortable interacting with people. 

I already had Maeve, offspring of a city feral and knew it would be tough to get these girls behaving in a civilised manner.  ~

I hope you are paying close attention to these pics because there will be a test at the end and you'll have to be able to tell these black cats apart.  Just kidding!  I can't tell them apart most of the time and never know which name to yell when they are into something they shouldn't be.

When I took the girls in to be spayed, I was talking to the vet about how different city ferals are to barn ferals.  I never have had problems taking in barn kittens no matter how wild the mother was.  He joked that barn cats are so inbred they aren't all that bright and that may be why the city cats are more difficult.

All three city girls are certainly clever.  Maeve mimics whatever she sees me do. She can pop down the toaster, wipes her paw over the dishes in the dishwater and works very hard at turning on taps.  Thank heavens she hasn't quite mastered that one yet!  She made my life hell for the first year.  There was nothing she didn't get into and lose or break.

With the new girls, for every sweet moment like this, ~

There's the roughhousing moment that sends the Internet receiver crashing to the floor.  Yes, a Rogers hub can be dropped repeatedly and still work! ~

It seems Clara Jane and Michaela were born hungry and they can't seem to get enough to eat.  They'll steal from each other, the other cats and any human food they can possibly get into!  They'll take it off your plate if you don't keep your eye on them.  For the first few months I had to lock them in another room just to eat a meal in peace!

They've broken more glass and china than you could imagine.  That favourite jam jar I showed you in the spring is just a distant memory. ~

They didn't seem to think the buttons should be on my burlap lamp shade.  No problem!  Just throw yourselves at it until you have the whole thing in tatters girls. ~

Clara Jane is a devotee of Buddha, it appears, and keeps those Tibetan bells ringing non stop. ~

Any marks on wall paint must be removed, in their minds.  I have no idea why they were pulling the drywall off where that arrow is pointing. ~

In the bathroom I assume they were trying to unearth that drywall screw. ~

I don't want you to think that I haven't made any progress with them.  They've learned, NO, QUIT IT, YOU'RE GONNA GET IT and LEAVE IT.  They've also learned to run like hell when they see me coming and not go back at whatever it is until I leave the room again. sigh

All three tried, but it was Clara Jane that managed to claw a big enough hole in that screen to squeeze out and chase the chickens around the yard. I'm sure she holds that as 'the most fun ever' in her mind! ~

Cat toys are a big help.  Nothing beats bringing a 12' ladder in the house for good times! ~

While I'm painting the family room white, they are wearing quite a bit of paint.  It's on their tails, paws and noses. They don't mind as long as they get to join in the fun.

I will try very hard to forgive them for knocking a solid lead, 100 yr. old cow statue, that I paid an absolute fortune for because it had it's original paint, into the can of white paint. ~

I'll forgive them because they trust me and curl up on my lap to sleep.  I'll forgive them because they come tearing to the door to greet me when I come home. I'll forgive them because the vet cautioned me that Michaela isn't very healthy and maybe I shouldn't put money into spaying her.  He knows all my pets are rescues and I have to keep veterinary costs down as much as possible, or I can't take them in. I couldn't adopt her out when I knew her adult teeth had never come in at the back and she may have feline herpes. So we've worked away at it and she gets healthier every day.

If you haven't had a lot of experience with cats, don't have at least a couple of hours a day to work with them or are terribly attached to your crockery and walls, think twice before you take in a feral kitten, especially if it wasn't captured in the first 6 - 12 weeks of life.  All of mine were about twelve weeks old when I got them and that is pushing it, in my opinion.  A better option for you may be an SPCA kitten from a socialised mother.  There are endless numbers of those waiting for a loving home.

It's worth all of this trouble to me when I think of the life they would have had on the streets and see moments like this. ~

If only Clara Jane would learn to sit like a lady! ~

I'll keep working on that one!

Monday 11 November 2013

Recognition For The Servicemen Sent To Buchenwald

"I'm twenty years old and I'm alone somewhere near Paris, in occupied France.  I know this is bad but what I don't yet know is that I am about to become a Holocaust survivor, one of 168 Allied servicemen that were sent to Buchenwald concentration camp."

With those few words Canadian WWII veteran, Ed Carter-Edwards VE3 MWC, had my full attention.  I spent the next four days researching these 168 Allied servicemen of Buchenwald, one of the first and largest concentration camps.  It is a story that was suppressed for forty years, until the surviving servicemen broke their silence and demanded they be heard.

What started out as a simple Remembrance Day speech at a local Beaver meeting ~

has opened my eyes to a travesty of justice for the servicemen who suffered so much for the Allied forces. Because of the extreme youth of the Beavers, Ed focused his talk on being shot down on his 22nd mission as a wireless operator on a Canadian Halifax bomber, November 28, 1944 and hiding until hunger drove him to make contact with two French women working in their garden. The women risked their lives to put him in touch with the French Resistance.

The flight crew of Lion Squadron 427 ~

The boys wanted to know what each and every medal he wore stood for. ~

The French Resistance gave Ed new identity documents and civilian clothes, hiding him until their driver could smuggle him out of France.  It would be an exciting story of a dashing young airman if the driver hadn't turned out to be an informant that was turning all 168 airmen and the young French couple that assisted them over to the Gestapo.

Instead, it became a story of fear, courage, despair, hope, betrayal and survival.  Ed was arrested and his dog tags thrown away.  He is denounced as an enemy spy and thrown into a Paris prison instead of a POW camp.  For five weeks he lives in overcrowded, flea ridden conditions and tries to keep his sanity through the screams of the tortured resistance fighters.  He discovers he is one of 168 servicemen held there against Geneva Convention rules.  A directive has come from "high up" that all Allied airmen, that do not turn themselves in voluntarily, will be treated as spies and denied all rights.

After five weeks, servicemen from Britain, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Jamaica are put in boxcars with all the other detainees and spend a horrific five days travelling to Buchenwald.  As they enter the camp, a guard points to the black smoke pouring from the chimney and tells them the only way out is through that.  Their hair is shaved off and they are sent to a separate compound where they will stay without shoes or shelter for three weeks.  By all accounts, they are treated worse than the other concentration camp prisoners.  Sick, weak, injured and starving, they acknowledge the senior officer being Phil Lamason of New Zealand. He organises them into groups based on country of origin and has them elect a leader for each group.

His first address to them is as follows. ~

"Attention!   Gentlemen, we have ourselves in a very fine fix indeed.  The goons have completely violated the Geneva Convention and are treating us as common thieves and criminals.  However, we are soldiers.  From this time on, we will conduct ourselves as our training has taught us and as our countries would expect from us.  We will march as a unit to roll call and we will follow all reasonable commands as a single unit."

Their best chance of survival is to stick together and maintain discipline.

For three and a half months all petitions to be transferred to a POW camp are rejected.  Two of the servicemen die.  Knowing they are all scheduled to be executed, Lamason manages to get a message smuggled out to the German Luftwaffe, informing them that there are servicemen in Buchenwald.  Under some pretext, two German officers arrive and speak to the Allied servicemen.  They make no promises because they say they, "Don't do well with these people", but they carry the message back.  General Hermann Goring, himself a WWI fighter pilot, receives it and is enraged that they are there.  With only six days to spare before execution, the airmen are transferred to Stalag Luft III.

They have survived unimaginable horror and deprivation.  They have seen and endured the most terrible example of man's inhumanity to man.

As he holds a piece of barbed wire and a railroad spike from the line going into Buchenwald, Ed Carter-Edwards face changes from jovial and outgoing to a look of pure pain. ~

I'm telling you his story on this November 11th because none of these servicemen were acknowledged as Holocaust survivors in their home countries.  Some were told not to talk about it by the military.  Some were not believed and gave up talking about it so they wouldn't appear to have "lost it" over there. It was forty years before a few of these servicemen met up at a meeting of POWs, found their voice, and started really telling their story.

As they aged and needed extra medical care, they were denied compensation from the funds set up for Holocaust survivors. Ed had to obtain proof from German records that he was prisoner #78361 Buchenwald to satisfy his own Veteran's Affairs Office. More than anything, they felt the rejection of not receiving the respect they were due for their exceptional suffering in the line of duty. 

As I talked to him after his speech, Ed winked at me and asked I was a sh*t disturber.  ~

I told him that, on occasion, I can be.  This is one of those occasions.

They are still fighting for recognition.  If you are a citizen of Britain, USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand or Jamaica, I urge you to ask whether your members of the Buchenwald 168 have received the recognition they so justly deserve!



Tuesday 5 November 2013

Revamping A Chandelier

I had visions of an antique carriage lantern hanging in my redecorated hall.  I just couldn't find one.  My perfect light fixture is out there waiting for me but you can't will an amazing 'find' to appear.  In the meantime, I would have to resign myself to something a little less English country estate.

Luckily, I had a free, terribly ugly chandelier!  It's an odd mixture of brushed brass and clear shades, with a strange pattern of ridges and daisy type flowers on the shades.

Even Maeve looks singularly unimpressed with this light. ~

If there's one thing I'm always telling you on this blog, it is that absolutely any finish can be changed!

When I'm working with metal, my favourite 'go to paint' is Old Masters Metallics.  It's about $8 for a small pot and I have painted dozens and dozens of things with one that shows no signs of running out.

I used a frayed paint brush to daub Aged Bronze on the metal parts, chain and all. ~

By leaving bits of the brass showing through, it takes on a weathered look.

The glass shades looked like a good candidate for an experiment with Krylon Looking Glass Spray.  I hunted all over for this stuff in Canada and couldn't find it.  My friend, Wendy, brought me a can from the USA.  There are tons of tutorials on how to use this paint to get a mirrored surface so I won't give you all the itty bitty details.  I read about 20 of them and went with the simplest version I could find.

I wanted the shades to look like aged mercury glass.  To get the look, I had to spray the inside of the shades with the paint and then spray a mixture of vinegar and water on the wet paint.  Looking Glass spray is the runniest stuff I have ever worked with!  You need a VERY THIN coat or it will have drips and runs in it. The vinegar eats into the paint and forms bubbles.  You dab at the bubbles with a paper towel to break them. Of course, if you wanted a pristine mirrored surface, you would skip the vinegar/water/paper towel part.

After one coat it didn't look like it was doing much. ~

After 3 coats I had the look I was going for.  I used a heavy hand in wiping the vinegar off because I wanted a very worn look. ~

This looks pretty close to the real thing when it is lit.  I think the ridges and flowers have a bit of an Art Deco look now instead of a seventies vibe. ~

The light was free, the metal paint was from the never ending pot and the Krylon Looking Glass paint cost $10.

I'm good with that until the perfect, antique carriage lantern magically appears! ~

I'm sharing this with Cottage Style Party  From Dream To Reality  Tuesdays With A Twist