Fiction in 50: If at first you don’t Succeed

 

succeed

I want to do it. I can do it. I ate the bow but I can do it. I buried it in the garden all this time, tell me that you never knew. Nope, I can’t do it…

If at first you don’t succeed, get someone with thumbs to help…

The Bookshelf Gargoyle curates a Fiction in 50 mini-narrative challenge – this month’s prompt is If at first you don’t succeed! Taking a break on the pre-holiday rush, pour yourself something tasty and scribble a bit of short, short fiction: send it in and then go have a peek at the other entries – GargoyleBruce writes wonderful reviews on all sorts of kid lit (big and small) with a cheeky tone guaranteed to make you laugh out loud. Wander through the stacks, you are sure to find something you’ll like.

Click on the icon in the sidebar for previous entries…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow

xmas yellow The best time to look
for the light within
is when the world shines
with the bright colour
of the holidays

Illuminate yourself in the entries of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow

Two Cents Tuesday Challenge: Cook

cook

a kitchen nymph

As odd as it may seem, awhile back we had a conversation about the joys fruitcake with a fellow blogger. As a kid, we didn’t see its merits: only the candied cherries were worth picking out of the slices on the sideboard, the rest of it seemed uninspiring. Today, people fall into one of two camps with this traditional holiday fare – most hate it, probably due to the regifting of those tasteless convenience store cardboard bricks fobbed off as “delectable” once-a-year treats or memories of dry slices served up at Granny’s knee – and those of us who truly enjoy a thin slice of vintage, brandy-soaked nostalgia made with our own hands.

Across the Bored became a convert a few years back when a friend bestowed upon us about 5 pounds of very exotic dried fruit. Our first thought was that there was no way we would every be able to eat our way through it and the next idea was why not try to make a real Victorian fruitcake, one that would sit for a few months in a dark place soaking up some really good brandy, just to take the edge off. Consultation of The American Heritage Cookbook provided exactly the recipe we were hoping for and resulted in the absolutely best, sinfully tastiest potential doorstop ever.  The recipe follows with our additions in italics….

BLACK FRUITCAKE

This recipe is of English origin and is known variously as Dark Fruitcake, English Fruitcake, Black Fruitcake and Merry Christmas Cake.

1/4 pound candied citron
1/8 pound candied lemon peel
1/8 pound candied orange peel
1/2 pound candied cherries
1 pound candied pineapple
1 pound golden raisins
1/2 pound seeded raisins (we used sultanas)
1/4 pound currants
1/4 pound blanched shelled almonds
1/4 pound shelled walnuts or pecans
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
5 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup dark rum, cognac, sherry or Madeira (we used 1 1/4 cups Chemineaud brandy)

We also fudged on the 1 pound ingredients and added in dried prunes, papaya, pear, apple, blueberries, cherries, figs, dates, and cranberries…

The fruit and nuts should be prepared a day ahead as follows: sliver the citron, lemon and orange peel into very thin strips; cut the cherries in half and the pineapple in thin wedges. Set aside. Pick over the raisins and currants to eliminate stray stems or seeds and add to fruit. Coarsely chop the other dried fruit and add to mixture covering. Add rum, cognac, sherry or Madeira and soak overnight (we had so much fruit that 1/2 cup just wasn’t enough and soaked the whole in Brandy for 3 days just to be sure!) Chop the almonds and the walnuts or pecans coarsely. Set them aside, too. The day (of cooking) prepare the pan. Grease a 10-inch tube pan, four 1 pound coffee cans, or 2 bread pans, measuring 9 x5x3 inches (we used 3 vintage round spring-form pans with a side lock). Line with brown paper (there is a very good reason for this…)
To make the cake: Mix 1/2 cup of the sifted flour with all of the fruit and nuts in a large bowl. Sift remaining flour with spices and baking soda (you can add more of the spices to taste). Cream butter until soft, then work in granulated sugar and brown sugar, a little at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the eggs, milk, almond extract, and, finally, the flour mixture. Mix thoroughly. Pour over the fruit and nuts and work together, with your hands, until the batter is well mixed. Lift the batter into the pan or pans and press it down firmly to make a compact cake when cooked. Bake in a preheated 275 degree oven. A tube pan that uses all of the batter will take 3 1/4 hours; the bread pans, which will hold half the batter, 2 1/4 hours; the coffee cans, which each hold one-fourth of the batter, 2 hours; (the round pans which we used were probably around 2 1/2 hours with lots of checking – being an intuitive cook is why we don’t write a food blog…) Remove cakes from the oven, let stand half an hour, then turn out onto cake racks. Peel off the brown paper very carefully. the four small, round cakes make attractive Christmas presents.

To age the Fruitcakes: Allow at least four weeks (we left ours for at least that many months, poking with a toothpick and watering liberally with brandy once a month, and they are still tasty over a year later). Wrap each cake in several layers of cheesecloth well soaked in rum, cognac, sherry or Madeira. Place in an airtight container, such as a large crock or kettle, and cover tightly (we wrapped ours further in 2 layers of tin foil and placed in metal cake tins). If the cheesecloth dries out, moisten it with a little of the wine or spirits. Do not overdo it. The cakes should be firm, not soft, at the end of the aging period. This will make them easy to slice in neat, compact slices. If you wish to frost fruitcakes after they have been properly aged, cover the top first with Almond Paste, then with Milk Frosting (this can be tricky as my mother and grandmother found out 2 days before our wedding and had to resort to blow-drying the almond paste onto the cake… but that is for another post). To decorate, make a garland of candied cherries, slivered angelica, and blanched whole almonds around the edge of the cake.

And that’s it.

Would We do it again? Probably. It is intensely time-consuming, expensive and requires a good knowledge beforehand of baking and some nursing throughout the aging period but it is also deliciously worth it, once in a very special while. Perhaps when this one is finished or for a wedding… So the Two Cents Tuesday Challenge for this fortnight is –  Cook – because we all have to eat, one way or another.

“How do you cook?” – On a griddle, on a grill, on a Bbq in winter still, like a short-order guy, fritters, fish or fry, vegan or carnivore, a little less or a little more…

We would love to see your vision.

For all those who are new readers to Across the Bored, here are some guidelines for the challenge: HOW DOES THIS WORK?

  1.  I will post some commentary on a random topic that pops into my head (such as the above) and then ask you to respond on the same.
  2. Your point of view on the current week’s challenge can take any form: a quote, a motto or saying, an essay, poem or opinion of yours or attributed to someone else, a piece of music, a song, a video, a work of art, photograph, graffiti, drawing or scribble – but it has to be about the topic!
  3. Please, don’t just link to an old post… challenge yourself.
  4. The Challenge will be open for 14 days (there will be a reminder post at the 7 day mark) after which I will post another.
  5. ENJOY, have FUN and TELL your friends and fellow bloggers.

 SO – Create your Two Cents Tuesday Challenge post

  1. Then add a link to your blog in my comment box.
  2. To make it easy for others to check out your post, title your blog post “Two Cents Tuesday Challenge” and add the same as a tag.
  3. If you would like your reader to see what others are presenting for the same challenge, add a link to the “Two Cents Tuesday” challenge on your own blog.
  4. Feel free to pick up your badge on the Two Cents Tuesday Challenge page
  5. Remember to Follow My Blog to get your weekly (hopefully) reminders.

 

Two Cents Tuesday Challenge: Wishes

chip n daleSometimes something silly is the only cure

Across the Bored doesn’t subscribe to cable – this is a statement that often elicits reactions of shock and awe to those who couldn’t live without their daily dose of reality TV, sports network or gardening channel. It’s not that we have any ideological issues (well, maybe…) with commercial broadcasting but it was a conscious decision to boycott the usurious rates of the providers and hopefully foster some independent thought in our then-toddlers. Fast-forward 20 years and we realize that time does go really fast when one is otherwise occupied and we actually haven’t missed all that much that we didn’t find out by other means. Anything we could possibly be interested in now seems to be available digitally. Some of it, like the classic Christmas fare that just gets better every year is even, gasp, on VHS tapes made painstakingly before the advent of the internet…

It just wouldn’t be the holiday season without a dose of Chip ‘n’ Dale annoying Donald and Pluto, Burl Ives’ voice from the past placating a sad Rudolph or everyone’s favourite alter-ego, the Grinch. This harmless nostalgic yearning comes at a time of year when we are the most likely to get stressed and should be indulged – so we don’t get that one last thingamabob for Auntie or bake an extra batch of cookies just in case: will anyone notice but ourselves? And wouldn’t we be better served in the long run by telling those around us to do the same, come and cuddle on the couch, just laugh and forget about everything else for a few hours?  

These are the Two Cents Tuesday Challenge – Wishes – for the next few weeks, to slow down, reconnect, re-evaluate and relax.

This holiday season maybe we should all take a step to the side and let the hustle and bustle rush past us – “What are your wishes for the coming year?” – Peace on earth, good will to men, more fun, more sun, more hours in the day like way back when, less noise, no batteries in toys, clear sailing or a new adventure …

We would love to see your vision.

For all those who are new readers to Across the Bored, here are some guidelines for the challenge: HOW DOES THIS WORK?

  1.  I will post some commentary on a random topic that pops into my head (such as the above) and then ask you to respond on the same.
  2. Your point of view on the current week’s challenge can take any form: a quote, a motto or saying, an essay, poem or opinion of yours or attributed to someone else, a piece of music, a song, a video, a work of art, photograph, graffiti, drawing or scribble – but it has to be about the topic!
  3. Please, don’t just link to an old post… challenge yourself.
  4. The Challenge will be open for 14 days (there will be a reminder post at the 7 day mark) after which I will post another.
  5. ENJOY, have FUN and TELL your friends and fellow bloggers.

 SO – Create your Two Cents Tuesday Challenge post

  1. Then add a link to your blog in my comment box.
  2. To make it easy for others to check out your post, title your blog post “Two Cents Tuesday Challenge” and add the same as a tag.
  3. If you would like your reader to see what others are presenting for the same challenge, add a link to the “Two Cents Tuesday” challenge on your own blog.
  4. Feel free to pick up your badge on the Two Cents Tuesday Challenge page
  5. Remember to Follow My Blog to get your weekly (hopefully) reminders.

 

Two Cents Tuesday Challenge: Harvest

harvest

couldn’t have asked for anything more

This non-season always finds Across the Bored in a transitional frame of mind – we balk at putting on socks and practical shoes (or even hose and stilettoes for that matter) for it would mean summer is truly over and we have given ourselves over to autumn, brief precursor of long winter. Here in the Great White North, Thanksgiving comes unnaturally early leaving those of us who have not yet fully acclimatized scrambling for fall fare to put on the table when we would much rather just throw something on the BBQ and soak up the last of the sun’s feeble rays. Trips to the countryside to see the foliage look doubtful if the leaves piling up in our backyard are any indicator, so we must content ourselves with what the local farmers have brought to market to satisfy those seasonal urges.

Although blessed by the bounty the land brings us when you live in a climate like ours, no, we are not thankful that the freedom of hot August days are long gone. Now we have to hunker down, put up, store away, make sure that there is enough of everything to span those months when the possibility of no electricity or heat surrounded by six feet of snow are much more of a reality than any television show. Everyone around us seems off-balance, suddenly reminded that there is much to do before December’s clarion call of familial duty and forced cheerfulness – so throw in one long weekend, a turkey, too many carbohydrates and a few vices of choice and you have a recipe for interesting times.

Did our ancestors feel the same way? Did our French forebears complain about having to go out and shoot one more grouse because ma tante had decided that she was going to grace them with her presence after all? Did our First Nations brethren grumble that it really wasn’t the best time of year for Still Water and his brood to stay for a few days? Did our English and Irish pioneers rue the day they left green pastures and a good cup of tea as they looked out into the wilderness? Perhaps, and like this week’s Two Cents Tuesday Challenge, they also may have been comforted by their new world’s rich – Harvest – one that, in essence, has not changed a whole lot over the course of a few centuries.

“How do you see harvest at this time of year?” – Pumpkins sweet and squash to eat, family near,the holiday blear, pilgrims and the past or things that don’t last, falling leaves or the hopes we retrieve …

We would love to see your vision.

For all those who are new readers to Across the Bored, here are some guidelines for the challenge: HOW DOES THIS WORK?

  1.  I will post some commentary on a random topic that pops into my head (such as the above) and then ask you to respond on the same.
  2. Your point of view on the current week’s challenge can take any form: a quote, a motto or saying, an essay, poem or opinion of yours or attributed to someone else, a piece of music, a song, a video, a work of art, photograph, graffiti, drawing or scribble – but it has to be about the topic!
  3. Please, don’t just link to an old post… challenge yourself.
  4. The Challenge will be open for 14 days (there will be a reminder post at the 7 day mark) after which I will post another.
  5. ENJOY, have FUN and TELL your friends and fellow bloggers.

 SO – Create your Two Cents Tuesday Challenge post

  1. Then add a link to your blog in my comment box.
  2. To make it easy for others to check out your post, title your blog post “Two Cents Tuesday Challenge” and add the same as a tag.
  3. If you would like your reader to see what others are presenting for the same challenge, add a link to the “Two Cents Tuesday” challenge on your own blog.
  4. Feel free to pick up your badge on the Two Cents Tuesday Challenge page
  5. Remember to Follow My Blog to get your weekly (hopefully) reminders.

 

Two Cents Tuesday Challenge: Relax

 –

back jan 2013 pic

happy holidays, a merry christmas and very happy new year to everyone out there
our very best wishes today and always

Well, we made it, once again! When all the commotion has died down, everyone is fed and content and the anxiety-fraught lead-up has disappeared like mist over the snow, we can now sit back and reflect over the events of our year.  For Across the Bored it was a bang-up, mash-up, rock ‘n’ roll ride to a new reality – the lens on life has been redirected to a different perspective, and with that in mind the Two Cents Tuesday Challenge decrees that this week we veer from the usual (no challenge) and we all – Relax!

Whether you put your feet up, don’t get dressed for the day, do all those things that you wouldn’t the rest of the year, indulge or don’t, do a marathon video catch-up or just plain nothing looking out the window at our wonderful world – We hope that everyone has a well-deserved break this Holiday Season and want to thank each and every follower, reader and casual visitor for making this endeavour one of the more rewarding that 2012 has put on our plate.

As a reminder of how incredibly lucky we all are and how thankful we should be to alive in this most inspiring of times, please have a look at Giacomo Sardelli’s video Further Up Yonder.

For a bigger view see the 2048 x 1152 version (mp4)

For all those who are new readers to Across the Bored, there are guidelines for the challenge (which will begin again in January 2013) on the Two Cents Tuesday Challenge page.

F is also for Friday: A Swedish Christmas

Now it is Christmas again – Carl Larsson, 1907

Works by Swedish painter Carl Larsson are informed by a very visible love of family – in the soft shades and warm light of often idyllic scenes of home, the artist provides us respite, he offers us in watercolour the relationship between beauty and all that is morally good.  The domestic scenes, especially those of Christmas, remain fresh and appealing for they represent what most of us strive for – a few peaceful moments in the company of loved ones where the cares of the world have fallen away.

For many December is bittersweet, a time for reflection upon the past but also for forging traditions –  those small customs for the benefit of the young,  they who do not yet realize the importance of their heritage and who will, hopefully, keep it alive once we are gone. One wonders whether Larsson was familiar with Ring Out, Wild Bells by Alfred Lord Tennyson.  The poem has been recited at the annual New Year’s Eve Celebration at Skansen in Stockholm every year since 1897.  Its themes are clear and precise, as relevant today as they were when it was first published in 1850.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Read more about these subjects:

Carl Larsson
Arts and Crafts Movement
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Gareth Davies-Jones reading Ring Out

Two Cents Tuesday Challenge: Temptation

Coffee and chocolate or something a little more sinful?

Hurricane Sandy has howled inland, blowing away the last of autumn and leaving no doubt that the first flakes of snow will soon follow.  We can smell the change in the air, see by the height of the sun and know by the cravings for winter foods that November is but days away.  The season that encompasses Halloween, the December Holidays and New Year’s can be one where we get carried away, so this week’s Two Cents Tuesday Challenge topic – Temptation – is timely.

The first entry that appears when the word is googled is:
Noun:  A desire to do something, esp. something wrong or unwise: “he resisted the temptation to call Celia”; “we gave in to temptation”

(or “the temptation to chew on the USB key was too much for the dog…)

A thing or course of action that attracts or tempts someone: “the temptations of life in New York”

(or “the temptation to redecorate the house while Jack was away left Jill with no choice…)

One imagines that the writers of dictionaries were a cranky lot who didn’t really have much fun in life.  Whether we are enticed, influenced, allured or seduced by a person or an idea; when we have an inclination or an impulse to do or achieve some thing; when the thing itself is so appealing that we are left breathless with desire, is this really so terrible?  It sometimes has beautiful results.  Or not…

So,  “How does temptation appear to you?”

We would love to see your vision.

For all those who are new readers to Across the Bored, here are some guidelines for the challenge:

HOW DOES THIS WORK?

  1.  I will post some commentary on a random topic that pops into my head (such as the above) and then ask you to respond on the same.
  2. Your point of view on the current week’s challenge can take any form: a quote, a motto or saying, an essay, poem or post by you or attributed to someone else, a work of art, photograph, graffiti, drawing or scribble.
  3. The Challenge will be open for 6 days after it is posted upon which I will post another challenge.
  4. ENJOY, have FUN and TELL your friends and fellow bloggers.

 SO – Create your Two Cents Tuesday Challenge post

  1. Then add a link to your blog in my comment box.
  2. To make it easy for others to check out your post, title your blog post “Two Cents Tuesday Challenge” and add the same as a tag.
  3. If you would like your reader to see what others are presenting for the same challenge, add a link to the “Two Cents Tuesday” challenge on Across the Bored’s blog.
  4. Remember to Follow My Blog to get your weekly (hopefully) reminders.