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December 18, 2009

Whirling Dervish Dessert Diva on Salt Spring

A quilt from the Fall Fair that looks very Christmasy to me.
Did you notice that it's Christmas? I swear, until last week I was feeling completely oblivious to the incredibly limited time frame between then, now and December 25th. In fact, as late as early last week, which is a really weird but accurate way to state this, I was still at the point of  walking into the Post Office in Ganges, looking at the huge line-up and thinking to myself, What are all those people doing lined up with so many packages? Get with the program!

But, let me share with you that it is simply not possible to forget that it's Christmas when you visit Hurricane Pauline. I swear, she could charge admission.

In between having a beautiful, new Japanese-style fence built around her own place, orchestrating the ongoing construction of a new B&B (a.k.a's Gayle's future home) on her property, sourcing kitchens and aluminum siding and two by fours and designing staircases, the closer Christmas gets, the more her kitchen; well her entire house actually, looks like some poor woman has had a psychotic melt down and emptied every cupboard while depositing all sorts of amazing finds from garage sales wherever they could.

There are 63 crescent-shaped moon, icing sugar-covered cookies cooling. (Try saying that three times quickly!) There is a mince-meat cake that was made with 1/2 a bottle of brandy, cranberries, raisins and a custard topping. There are wonderful mince meat tarts - big ones - with little pastry hearts perched perfectly on top and lightly sprinkled with icing sugar.

She shows her mincemeat cake to me proudly as it has just come out of the oven. I regret that my camera is at home. There's plastic bins with flour and icing sugar overflowing and recipes taped above the work space like she's a scientist preparing some new radioactive isotope.

There's a magazine from 1995 with sugar cookies plastered across the front cover which she declares to be "lousy" but did I know that back then, even then, they were going on about Raw food, she says. She's wearing her work clothes: grey sweats, baggy jeans. Her ruddy complexion is made light with a dusting of flour.

She's got a live Christmas tree outside on her deck completely decorated. It fell over in the wind and the ornaments broke, she says.
Why's it out there? I ask, and no sooner has that stupid question left my lips when she stares at me. We stare around the room in unison and, oh ya, I get it, there IS no room in the living room for the tree. We peer at it all lit up through the french doors. I like to take my glasses off and stare at the sunburst white lights that happen as a result of a bad astigmatism. You could move the rocking chair. You could move the plaster statue of a horse that you picked up at the Sidney auction, I say, but no, it wouldn't be the same if those were gone.

The dishes are overflowing in the cottage's tiny sink and while the cake is cooling, she's stuffing holly branches with berries into this large, glass terrarium or whatever those things are called that hold floating candles. She stuffs in some gold beads, pours in water and lifts the christmas aquarium onto her fridge. "Sooooooo pretty," I exclaim with pure delight!

Outside, the house is strung with beautiful white lights. It's as if  generations of the McDonald Clan (including those arriving from Portland Island in the U.K.) are descending for a homecoming extravaganza. But, no, that isn't happening and given that, I have the $64 million question. What the hell is the motivating factor for doing all the work? Where does that come from?

I ponder this as she hands me a glass of Baileys and I sit down and update her on my last couple of days which, in Pauline work time equates in action to perhaps a mere 4 hours. Maggie, her affectionate black Scottie dog cuddles up to me on the couch. Who's crazy now I think, enjoying the taste of Baileys while I pet Maggie and revel in the pseudo Claus workshop right here on Salt Spring.

The whirling dervish dessert diva is a Christmas tradition. Mr. Bean's got nothing on Pauline.

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