Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christmas Fudge

It’s a week before Christmas; hopefully this time next week, we’ll be digesting ridiculously large quantities of smoked salmon, roast potatoes and champagne in front of the telly and I will be deeply if discreetly relieved that it’s all more or less over for another year. Between now and then, however, there remains a helluva lot to do…. One of our family traditions is that we make a whole load of home-made sweets to feast on during the holidays – rum-favoured chocolate truffles, peppermint creams, stuffed dates, and above all, home-made fudge (see recipe below). The fudge is a particular favourite though it can be tricky to make as it needs to be boiled for just the right amount of time. I’ve been making it for more years now than I care to count, so have pretty much got it off pat. It smells glorious as you’re boiling it and it never fails to remind me of the excitement and hustle-bustle of the days before Christmas when I was growing up.
Being teenagers, the two youngest members of the household like to make out they’re terribly sophisticated and cynical about the whole business of Christmas. After all, it’s been some years since they believed in Santa Claus. All the same, they aren’t able to completely disguise the mounting sense of anticipation that starts the moment the first window’s opened on the Advent Calendar. The Female Child has spent the last few weeks planning and ordering gifts for a vast battalion of her friends, wrapping them up with enormous care and adding sparkly ribbons, candy sticks and divine little cards to each. She sings contently as goes about the task and I’m reminded that there’s more pleasure in giving the perfect gift than in any you receive. I casually asked the Male Child if he’d be sending out cards to his friends too. His response? “Do I look like a girl?” Ah well – I guess the answer’s no then.
Later in the week, a whole gang of the daughter’s friends are coming over for a party and sleepover. The spouse and I debate the merits of going out and leaving them to it, or whether it makes more sense to stay on hand in order to ensure damage limitation. Not to be outdone, our son has now announced that he too wants to offer seasonal largesse to his mates and so has invited half his class to our house on the last day of term. Another trip to the supermarket, methinks.
Along with preparing for the big day, I’ve also been trying to think ahead a little and make a plan for the coming year. When I was still working in an office, we used to do an annual appraisal, including setting objectives for the year ahead. When you’re working independently, it’s much harder to keep to a routine, and it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to outline a few things that I’d definitely like to achieve in 2014. (I’d be interested to know if anyone else does this?) It’s generally accepted wisdom in some quarters that if you write down your aims, you’re much more likely to achieve them; I guess time will tell on that score. My absolutely main aim is to start earning some money. I need to get better at building up a network of contacts and actually using it. As all the advice out there repeatedly underlines, even if you write the greatest novel or screenplay on the planet, it will serve you naught if you don’t actually tell anyone about it. I know this, but I still find it hard. So 2014 has to be the year I make some sort of breakthrough. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Christmas Fudge
2 lb / 900g – Granulated sugar
10 fl oz / 300ml – Full fat milk
8 oz / 225g – Unsalted butter
1 tin – Condensed milk
2 tbsp – Golden Syrup
A few drops of vanilla essence

Method: Put the sugar and milk in a large heavy-based pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the butter, condensed milk and golden syrup. Bring to the boil and continue cooking until the mixture begins to darken and a soft ball forms when a little is dropped into a glass of cold water. This part of the process takes about half an hour and it’s important to keep stirring it, so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to sit for five minutes. While this is happening, fill the sink with a couple of inches of cold water. After five minutes of initial cooling, add the vanilla essence to the fudge mixture, place the pan in the cold water and beat it with a wooden spoon until the contents becomes grainy and fudge-like. Tip out into a buttered tin and leave to cool.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Quizzical

I confess I like a good quiz, though I have a bad habit of taking them way too seriously. They tend to bring out my competitive streak; after all, it’s nice to win, as our team did on Saturday. Not surprisingly, given the events of the past week, Nelson Mandela’s name came up among the questions.
Having grown up in the 1970s and 80s and followed the anti-apartheid movement during those years, his passing feels very much like the end of an era. I remember hearing him speak in Trafalgar Square some years ago. It was a cold winter’s afternoon and Mandela was already well into his eighties. It’s a time of life when most people are thinking of easing up if they haven’t done so already. Not Mandela. He was speaking in support of the Make Poverty History campaign, something he was absolutely passionate about. What shone through was his huge generosity of spirit, an incredible capacity to care about others, not just those he knew personally, but everyone, everywhere and in a very practical sense too. For me, his life epitomises love as a choice, a deliberate habit of mind that compels action regardless of the cost; in other words real love, not a mere feeling. Mandela’s speech stayed with me for a long time and I came to the conclusion that what he achieved was the result of an extraordinary act of the imagination. In the first instance, this meant the imagination to see and understand the fear that lay behind his oppressors’ actions, then to envisage how that fear could be stripped away and replaced with the trust and hope needed to create a society where equality, freedom and justice could flourish. Of course it’s one thing to imagine an ideal outcome, another to make it happen. Without resilience, patience and determination, Mandela’s dream might have remained just that.
Thinking about Mandela has made me reflect on the difference between dreams and fantasies. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish the two. When I become discouraged, the idea of being a writer seems more like a fantasy than anything else ie a pretty fairy-tale that will never become a reality. Fantasies are pure illusion, sugar and cream for the mind and yes, it can be very pleasant indulging in a daydream. Who doesn’t like imagining the clothes or jewels they’ll be wearing when they accept their well-deserved Oscar, or the wise and gracious speech they’ll make? Pursuing a dream on the other hand is all about working slowly and surely towards a goal. It means doing everything in your power to make the dream come true, however hard the road may be. It means accepting the knock-backs, of which there are plenty, learning from them and then getting up, dusting yourself off, taking a deep breath and setting off again along the steep and rocky path. It can be very hard ignoring the voice at the back of your mind that keeps asking whether it matters if the dream doesn’t come true. Does it mean you’ve just been wasting your time, maybe even years of it? Is it the journey itself that counts, what we’ve learned, the people we’ve met along the way, how we’ve changed and grown in the process? Is that enough, without any recognition or success to crown it all? Maybe, but sometimes it feels like a very high price to pay. Mandela must have experienced many days of black despair; perhaps his greatest achievement was in overcoming it so triumphantly.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

‘Is This Really What You Think of Women?’

bryanmora

The people at The Representation Project have just released a video that takes a look at how women were portrayed in the media in 2013.  While there were a number of popular films and television shows with female leads and women professionals received more recognition for the work they do in certain ways (like more directing Emmy nominations than any other year), the whole picture isn’t pretty.

The indie filmmakers at The Representation Project produced the 2011 Sundance doc “Miss Representation” about women and the media.  Director Jennifer Siebel Newsom created the organization after the success of the film.

View original post

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized