Monday, November 25, 2013

A Wedding Celebration: Wine, Food, Laughter

In Nova Scotia this past summer the family celebrated the recent marriage of Paula and Laurie's son Kenneth to Christine.  The wedding had taken place in Ontario and a couple or so weeks later Ken and Christine  arrived in N.S.  As none of us had been able to attend their wedding, we decided to celebrate it in our own unique fashion.  Little did they suspect!

We are known for our skits--at least by friends and family.  Over the years we have had many celebrations but always with a twist and a lot of good humour: birthdays, weddings, a sister's  university post graduate degree (with the shenanigans that no university could possibly outshine) and another sister's induction into the Catholic church (one no church could possibly equal).  All of the earlier celebrations were held some years after the fact.

These, of course, were dress-up affairs, with hats and clothing found in our basements or attics and many made up from cardboard or whatever else could be found.  All of them were kept secret from the honorees, which meant that much of the fun (with lots of laughter) was in the actual preparation beforehand.  It was no different this time, even though the actual wedding had been only a short time before.
Christine and Ken surprised us all by coming down the stairs in full wedding regalia, he in his great dress suit and Christine in her beautiful white gown.  All of it had been carried in suitcases on the flight from Ontario where they had been married in Christine's home town.  Both Ken and Christine are university professors and that is where they met--at the university.  Little did they know what was planned for them on this summer afternoon.  
The Toast

John Brier, a close friend of the family, brought the Mumm's Champagne and he poured for the toast to the bride and groom. 

Laurie, the father of the groom, gave the toast to the happy couple.

Below, John, the bride and groom and my sister Carol.
On the table was a German bottle of Henkell Trocken which one can also buy in Nova Scotia.
John pouring the Champagne at right.

 Below, the father of the groom in centre toasting his son and new daughter-in-law.  Sister Carol at right.

The kiss and the dance

Below left, something funny going on!  Sisters Paula (mother of the groom), Anne and Carol. To the right, the line-up:  John, Laurie (father of the groom), Ken (groom) and Stephen (uncle of the groom)

The bride and groom did not know that we had more planned.

The Skits

Half of the fun is getting ready for the skits.  Paula and Anne did most of that this time, with Paula hauling out everything she could find from her attic.  Carol and I joined in.  After the toast, we headed outside to the back yard where the bushes were in bloom and the sun was shining.

Anne (on the left below) made a unique Mistress of Ceremonies.  Her husband Stephen was a knock-out as was Paula, the mother of the groom.  The bride looked beautiful and totally normal!  Below, centre, the groom taking pictures of the show. 


Christine is of Dutch descent, thus the wooden shoes in her honour.  Amazing what can be found in an attic or a secondhand store.

 The guests arrive.

For posterity:  The family

A moment caught!

A step in time!  Four sisters and friend

The Feast

No wedding is complete without food and a special cake.

Carol and Paula above getting things ready with a few appetizers
My camembert appetizer almost melted away in the oven.  This is simple to make and excellent.  I have given this recipe previously in one of my earlier blog posts, but it is popular enough to give again.  I have served it many times over the years.  Crackers were placed in the dish later.  I prefer thin slices of French bread with the cheese, although crackers are fine as well.  Along with it, serve hot pepper jelly on the side to spoon on if wished.

Baked Camembert:  Slice a 125g (4.4 oz) round camembert (or brie) in half horizontally.  Mix together in a small bowl 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, 1 clove garlic, minced, 1/2 teaspoon lemon rind, 1 teaspoon lemon juice.  (Don't use more garlic unless it is a small one as you don't want it to override the flavour.)  Spread parsley mixture over the bottom half of the Camembert; top with remaining cheese disc.  Place in heatproof serving dish; cover with foil and bake in 375F/190C oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is softened and starts to melt.  Serve from the bowl with crackers or French bread.  (On this occasion, I used a large-sized camembert and doubled the recipe.  This recipe was from Canadian Living, Dec. 1995.)

Now for the main course:  Ham, cole slaw, bean salad and potato scallop, prepared by Paula.

On the plate:  the potato scallop at right, top, with ham and two salads

The red cole slaw was lovely.  Here is the recipe, which Paula found in a cookbook by The Best of Bridge authors.  It is in The Best of the Best, one of their later books, which was published in 1998.  I have that whole collection and many I have tried and they are very good.  I believe they are still in print.  If not, look in a secondhand bookstore.  

Recipe for the coleslaw is called Regina Beach Coleslaw in the book.  It calls for cabbage without specifying the type.  For effect, Paula made it with both green and red.  She mentioned that the red cabbage bleeds if left in the slaw too long and suggests using just green.  However, I find that even though it did run, it was colourful and tasted great.

Cabbage Slaw:  Makes 3 quarts/liters. 

Vegetable ingredients:  Place in a bowl 3 lbs of cabbage shredded , 2 large carrots, coarsely grated, 1 white onion, chopped and 1-1/2 cups sugar. 

Dressing Ingredients:  1 cup salad oil, 1 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon celery seed. 

Place the cabbage, carrots and onion in a large bowl; sprinkle the sugar over the top.

Place the dressing ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil; boil until the sugar has dissolved.  Pour it over the vegetables in the bowl and mix all well.  If using that day or the next, cover the bowl and place it in the fridge until you are ready to serve.  (Or, as the recipe says, place in sterilized jars as the salad will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.)  Drain before serving.

The icing on the cake at the end of the meal! 

The most important food at any wedding is the cake.  John made and brought the cheesecake.  I still wish I had eaten another piece!  It was so, so good.  I do not have his recipe but perhaps next summer he will give it to me.  Another happy couple, a small set of mice, top the cake.

The bride and groom cutting the cake

That ended a special day with the happy couple, family members and a good friend.  Champagne, delicious food and sunshine added to it all.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Remembering the Sacrifices of Those Who Served

Two Canadians, Lieutenant Harper and 2nd Lieutenant Benson, were shot down over Nonnenweier near Lahr in June 1918.  Both officers were crew in a DH 9 of No. 99 Squadron.  They lay in state at that time in the same funeral building that is at the front of the Lahr cemetery today.  They were buried in the Bergfriedhof cemetery with full military honours, their coffins escorted by English prisoners-of-war.  The German military band of the 169th Lahr Infantry Regiment followed.  Their bodies were later moved to the Commonwealth Niederzweihren Cemetery near Kassel, Germany.  The memorial stone commemorating the two pilots stands to the right of the Canadian Cenotaph in the Lahr City cemetary.  It was donated by Herr Gunter Lorenz of Lahr in the 1980s.
The booklet Benson and Harper, the story of two brave comrades as it says on the cover, was issued by the Royal Canadian Legion #002 of Lahr in 1989.  "It is a fragment of history torn from the annals of WW I," as quoted from the booklet and the words of Anthony Fallon in the Foreword.  The preface, by the Lord Mayor of Lahr at the time, Dr. Werner Dietz, is dated November 1989.  Two individuals who added their knowledge and helped to write that booklet were Herr Janos de Galgoczy-Mecher, Lahr, and Herr Erich Hockenjos, Lahr.
The information in the above two paragraphs came from that booklet and from an article on Benson and Harper on the internet.  I found it by typing the words "Benson and Harper" on Google.  Text with pictures is there for anyone wishing to read it.
Benson and Harper Branch #002, Royal Canadian Legion Lahr
Remembrance Day 2013 in Lahr, Germany

Above, the Standard Bearer, Ken Gardner, and at the podium, Guy O'Quinn

The Canadian flag is to the right of the sandy-coloured memorial Stone
Historically, on November 11th , the Benson and Harper Branch # 002 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Lahr holds its ceremony and service at the Canadian Cenotaph in the city cemetery.  This year was no different.  It was a long steep climb up to the top where the Cenotaph is located, becoming more difficult each year for many of the Legion members as they are older now and it isn't so easy.  Fewer of us attended this year, with several being ill or elsewhere.  This year we had only one Standard Bearer.  Two members, the President of the Legion and the Area Commander, were attending a Remembrance Day Service in France.
Above, the Lahr City wreath and Legion #002 wreath in the forefront.

The picture above appeared in the Badische Zeitung, one of the newspapers in Baden-Württemberg, on November 13, 2013.  It shows some of those who attended Canadian Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph in the Lahr cemetery.  The title of the picture says, 'Remembering dead comrades'. 
Four of the musicians who voluntarily play on Canadian Remembrance Day were there as usual this year, even though it was a German working day.  Their Remembrance Day was the following Sunday, on November 17th.  We attended a special service in Schiftung, just outside Baden-Söllingen, at the German War Graves Cenotaph on that date.

The pictures at left and below right:  at the Gedenkstein in Schiftung on German Volkstrauertag(German Remembrance Day).  It is dated 1945 and inscribed with the names of 33 German soldiers who fell in the last days of the war. 

The wreath in centre was placed by members of the Royal Canadian Legion Baden Branch #001.

 Pilot Officer John Magee was an American who was born in China (his parents were missionaries there).  In 1940 he was about to enter Yale University when he felt he had to help in the war that was raging over England.  The United States had not yet entered that war.  He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), passing his wings test in June 1941 to become a fighter pilot.  He trained at RCAF Station St. Catharines and RCAF Station Uplands (Ottawa). He was then promoted to Pilot Officer and posted to #53 Operational Training Unit (OTU), Royal Air Force (RAF) in Llandow, Wales.  Sadly, flying a Spitfire through clouds over England in 1941, at age 19, he collided with another Pilot.  Both were killed.  At that time he was based with the all-Canadian 412 Squadron at RAF Wellingore, England. 

(The information about John Magee was in the book  shown at left and on Wikipedia.) 
Magee, a poet and highly intelligent, will always be remembered for "High Flight," the most famous flying poem in the world.  It expresses how exhilarating and how exciting it was to fly so high above the earth.  On his gravestone are inscribed the first and last lines of his poem:  "Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth" and the last line, "Put out my hand and touched the face of God."

I wrote last year about my great uncle, Alfred Riggs.  He was killed in the Boar War in South Africa--one of Canada's earliest wars--in 1900 in the Battle of Paardeberg.  I drove to Prince Edward Island, my birth province, with my sister Paula this past summer and visited the Cenotaph/monument where his name is inscribed on a plaque, along with a fellow Prince Edward Islander, Roland Taylor.

The Cenotaph in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

The Plaque below is dedicated to the men of the Royal Canadian Regiment who fought so bravely in the Boar War in South Africa, 1899 - 1902.

Remembering the Canadian dead from past wars and peace keeping missions around the world always gives one time for reflection.  Those killed and injured in Afghanistan was in our era, which brings it close to us today.  I found the Remembrance Day Service this year to be both moving and sad.  It always is, but somehow it struck more deeply this time.  It makes one wonder about war--and why?  That is mostly an unanswered question.  One should always remember that soldiers do not start a war.
The Canadian Cenotaph in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
I recently read the book, March Forth, an inspiring true story written by Trevor Greene and his wife, Debbie Greene.  Trevor was terribly injured in Afghanistan.  It is one of the most moving true stories I have ever read.  The foreword was by General Rick Hillier.  A documentary about Trevor was made for Canadian television a couple of years ago.  Perhaps it is my own background of working for the military and of being a military spouse along with my background in medical records that made it so fascinating for me personally.  Whoever reads it, however, will be moved and inspired.  Below its title are the words:  "The Inspiring True Story of a Canadian Soldier's Journey of Love, Hope and Survival."  I highly recommend this book.
The War of 1812 between Canada and the United States was 200 years ago.  Other wars where Canada participated is some time ago now as well, with World War I ending in 1918 and World War II ending in 1945.  But memories live on from all of those wars, whether from the books we have read, the movies we have seen or the stories we have been told.  There are still veterans of WW II and the Korean War who are alive and no doubt they still have many stories to relate.  Afghanistan is the latest.  Thankfully, that war, for us, is now over.  It isn't really over, though, for those who were badly injured or for those families who lost loved ones.  We had far too many casualties and we should never forget the cost in lives taken and lives damaged.
Three Canadian Legion members and retired Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (RCHA) men on Canadian  Remembrance Day.  From left to right:  Ken Gardner (Standard Bearer), Guy O'Quinn (in charge of the service) and Bill Harbin. 
After the service ended, we headed to #002 Legion's meeting place, the Gasthaus Linde in Reichenbach.  Their regular meetings are held upstairs, but we gathered in the Gasthaus on the main floor.  Again, there were fewer this year than last, but soup and bread were still offered:  not Bill Fairley's homemade clam chowder, which had become traditional (Bill was very ill in the hospital on that day), but a noodle soup donated by Herr Wäldin and made by the Gasthaus Wirtin (inn keeper).
Herr Wäldin is shown at right in the picture below.  On the left is Colin Starr.

Hans-Jörg Partenheimer (former member of the Queens Own Rifles and the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps)

All countries involved in war suffer many human losses.  Canada has had losses in peace keeping missions as well.  A soldier, airman or sailor fights for his or her country as that is what is expected and that is what each feels is a duty, whether they believe in that war or not.  We should hold them all in high regard for their service to their country.
Standing on the right in the picture below is Reg Bonner, Area Commander for the Royal Canadian Legion in Europe. This is from Remembrance Day 2012 and the last picture of Bill that I took at the Legion.
William James Fairley (left, in the picture below) passed away on Sunday, 17 November 2013, at the Lahr Krankenhaus.  Bill was born in England but later moved to Canada.  He joined the RCAF where he served for many years.  He had lived in Reichenbach since the 1980s with his German lady partner, Maria.  He was a Past President of Legion Branch #002 and a member of the Masonic Lodge until his death. 

We shall remember him!  Aufwiedersehen!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lahr, Germany's Chrysanthemum Days

The Chrysanthemum Festival began on Saturday, the 26th of October.  The closing day was Sunday, the 10th of November.  Here are a few of the sights and flowers in the centre of the city. 
Beautiful old buildings on the Marktplatz and just behind it

For several years Lahr has showcased their now traditional Chrysanthema Tagen.  Thousands of people from all over Germany and elsewhere arrive in the city to view the splendour.  That means buses everywhere and parking for the rest of us difficult.  I hadn't visited this special event for about three years, mostly because of the parking problems but also because of the traffic congestion and ongoing construction in the heart of the city.  It was a beautiful late October day so I picked a time when I thought I might find a space and I was in luck.  I found free parking for one and a half hours so I had to make the most of it. 
The Storchenturm dates back to about 1220.  The tower was built by the Geroldseckers, one of several that the family built in the region during the mid 13th century.

An inside view at left and one from the outside of the tower on the right.

The tower and adjacent wall is what is left of the former castle that was in the centre of medieval Lahr.

The original well inside the tower area

Lahr is losing much of its German character and culture as there are now thousands of new residents from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.  As well, the inner city has had ongoing street construction for a couple of years.  Many things haven't changed in Lahr, of course, and that includes the Stadtpark, the Marktplatz and the Marktstrasse--although stores have come and gone and continue to do so.  Last spring I wrote a blog showcasing the Stadtpark.  Today, Lahr Stadtmitte--the old city centre--with its fall colours is the theme.
Below, the Gasthaus Rebstock on the Marktstrasse.   It faces the Stork Tower.  It is one of only a few German Gasthäuser left in Lahr.

The Marktplatz

Always food for a snack available

Along the Marktstrasse and byways

Below, Tschibo coffee shop in the background

The bookstore

Along the market street under the archway

Graf eye glass specialist on the left (white awnings) where many Canadians bought their glasses

A riot of colour

This is a view of the Marktstrasse from the Old Rathaus.
Musicians were playing beautiful music on a flute, guitar and accordion 

The former Rathaus
Lahr's old City Hall stands across from the Marktstrasse on the Kaiserstrasse.
The new Rathaus is in another location and near the Marktstrasse's lower end.

Along the Kaiserstrasse
The view below shows the Old Rathaus in the distance

The archway under the Old Rathaus
Fussball, as they call it in Germany, and soccer in North America:  a "Player"in flowers

The Lammstrasse is directly off the Kaiserstrasse.

Our family lived on the near side of the Lamm Apotheke during the first year after we moved to Lahr in 1974.  We were on the corner of Lammstrasse and the Kaiserstrasse.  The Lammstrasse winds back to the Marktplatz.

The Wirtschaft-Lamm (Gasthaus) is located just beyond the drugstore above.  It is still in business and although not now German-run, German cuisine is still served.

 Two pictures of familiar Lahr buildings 
The Badische Zeitung is one of the German newspapers in Baden-Württemberg
The Löwen Gasthaus was the finest restaurant in Lahr until the chef/owner Herr Dauzenroth and his wife retired.  Many Canadians spent their last few days in Germany in the hotel before returning to Canada.  We were one of those families who stayed there in 1977 before leaving for our posting to Winnipeg.  The Gasthaus reopened recently under new management. The beautiful rustic and conservative interior has been completely gutted and replaced with a modern decor emitting a cold atmosphere, although their present clientele seems to enjoy it.

This is a view from the Löwen (left forefront) towards the Kaiserstrasse and the Marktstrasse.  The side of the old Rathaus can be seen at the right.

 Although this last picture has nothing to do with chrysanthemums, it has a lot to do with any festival.  The ferris wheel was located just off the Marktstrasse for the two-week flower display. 

 Note:  It is longer than usual between my last blog post and this one.  I returned from Nova Scotia about six weeks ago.  I suffered from jet lag for longer than usual as it lasted a week.  We also had visitors from Canada, beginning the day I got back.  All stayed at a Gasthaus, but we entertained and were out sightseeing, eating and drinking at our usual Gasthaus locales.  I will be writing about my summer in Nova Scotia and our fall here in Germany, including the food and wine, of course.  Until then, enjoy the late autumn days.