Colour… I’ve almost forgotten what it is to have colour. We all have. No one knows whether there’s something wrong with our eyes, our brains or whether the entire Earth’s turned black and white with shades of grey.
People say it’s global warming, but I’m sure it’s the Big Bad Wolf, and I’m afraid. Very afraid.
Yet, I haven’t forgotten what it is to see red. Immerse myself in red. Be red. Red hair, red lips, red hearts, red dreams in red skies.
I also remember when the grass was green.
Anything, but black and white with shades of grey.
100 words. Photo prompt copyright Sarah Potter.
My response to this week’s prompt has been inspired by the weirdness of living in our current situation with the changes wrought by the coronavirus where wearing masks, social distancing and not hugging your friends has become the new norm. I now see scenes of people interacting normally on TV in scenes filmed in the past, and it’s starting to feel strange. Stop that. You’re not allowed to do that.
Gee , I really hope the vaccine comes along soon, and we can be ourselves again.
This has been a contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields.
How are you and what’s going on in your neck of the woods? While you’re thinking about that, let me offer you something to drink and perhaps a Lime & Coconut Biscuit, because there’s nothing left of the Key Lime Pie I made last week.
After a cool and wet start to our Summer, the sun and heat returned with a vengeance today. It was so hot, and perhaps the best indication of the sudden heat wave was how our dog Rosie suddenly shed her undercoat today. She’s not even a long-haired dog. However, a message went to her brain today, which said something along the lines of “Dump fur now” and it’s been coming out all day by the handful. The house is littered with black clouds.
The big excitement this weekend was heading to the beach after Church for some water baptisms. I’ve never been to a baptism at the beach before and I wondered how it would go on a crowded Sunday with all and sundry around. However, we went down the beach a bit and one of the guys got the guitar out and we sort of blended in. Well, that is if you ignore a few of us who were wading out into the water in our good clothes. We forgot to take hats, sunscreen a change of clothes and got sunburnt. Welcome to Summer.
Well, I’m going to keep this short and I’ll try to get back tomorrow and write a bit more. I need to get to bed. Goodnight!
Well, I’m not quite sure what to offer you with your cuppa tonight. On Friday night, I made a Bombe Alaska for my friend’s 60th Birthday. Unfortunately, the meringue slid off the ice cream centre and the brandy wouldn’t light. So, you could say that it was “Fizzer Alaska” instead.
However, it tasted good anyway. I’d added a few extras like a layer of Nutella Butter Cream and roasted hazelnuts over the cake for extra lusciousness. It was yum and a lot of fun, even if it didn’t go according to plan. By the way, if you’re a keen baker or fancy a bit of dessert, you might like to check out my previous post.
Last week, was fairly difficult overall. Our teenaged kids are keeping us on our toes with our son not seeing the point of doing his final year of school and looking at TAFE to pursue sound engineering. It sort of makes sense, but it’s still a big decision and it’s taking me time to get my head around the ramifications of it all. As if that wasn’t enough to think about, our daughter has been making some poor choices of late, and we’re needing to get our heads around that too. Long gone are the days where we could physically pick up our children when they were running off the “wrong” direction. Now, we’re needing to try to work with the teenage brain, which science tells us is potentially incapable of making good rational choices until they’re 25. Yet, this unregulated teenage mind is moving forward at full throttle thinking it knows it all, knows what’s best and can do anything it likes. Sometimes the only thing standing in the way is their hapless parents, school authorities, or when things go really pear-shaped, the police. Meanwhile, I keep dropping what I view as pearls of wisdom into the hapless subjects’ minds while driving them from A to B. It’s a bit like dropping coins in a money box, except it seems that the plug at the bottom has often been pulled out and lost. Consequently, the coins are often falling straight through and rolling away. It’s not a very encouraging picture. However, somehow most teens and their parents survive to adulthood so it’s not all doom and gloom after all. I live in constructive hope.
In addition to doing my baking at home, I’ve also loved watching Junior MasterChef and tonight is the Grand Finale. I’ve been so incredibly impressed with the dishes put up by the kids. They really knocked my socks off. If you’d like to watch any of the past episodes, here’s the link: https://10play.com.au/junior-masterchef-australia and you can find the recipes there too if you’re feeling particularly daring. Just because these cooks are young, doesn’t mean their dishes are any less impressive than their adult rivals. These kids are potentially the great professional chefs of the future and this pool of talent is a cut above the usual contestants for the adult version of the show. indeed, they’re absolutely mind boggling. I can’t wait to see who is going to win, and how the show is going to unfold.
However, before I move on from Junior MasterChef, I just heard the most priceless comment from one of the contestants, Georgia. You see, they’ve invited their mums onto the shows for the finale. Now, these kids have been doing just fine without their mums on set for the entire series, and have been able to go it alone. However, now they’ve reached the finale, mum is calling out from the gantry. My message to the mums is to back off. I think they know what they’re doing. These thoughts were going through my mind when Georgia piped up and said: “Who invited our mothers along?” Well, at least Filo is pleased his mum’s there.
Meanwhile, my WWI bio research is going really well. I have no idea how it’s going to find its place out there in the real world, because it’s a bit out there and it seems to sit somewhere in between academic history, creative writing, documentary and a movie script. Each of these things are ambitious on their own, and challenging the world order probably verges on suicide. After all, each of these disciplines is probably in its own box for a reason. I guess I’ll be finding out what happens when I break multiple moulds at once. Well, that is once I get all of this finished…
Oh well. Another week has begun. OMG! Do you ever have Mondays where the prospect of another week just wears you out, as you haven’t had enough time to recover from the week that’s been, or to resolve the splatter on the roof its left behind? Perhaps, I’ve been spoiled for awhile, because in so many ways life has been a lot simpler this year due to covid. While we’ve had to deal with the complications of hand sanitiser, masks, gloves, social distancing and toilet paper shortages, so many activities were cancelled that we haven’t been buzzing off over the place like manic bees trying to get everything done and take kids to three different places at the same time while trying to have some kind of a life ourselves. It’s been nice taking up the piano again, doing my extreme baking and doing hours of research. Indeed, it’s probably been something of a luxury…especially with my husband working from home and not commuting for three hours a day.
PS The last word on the Masterchef Junior front goes to Georgia’s Mum as she ate her daughter’s dessert the “Tropical Mess”…”she’s tricky to make a lunchbox for. She’s very particular with her flavours.” You’ve got to feel for the mother of Junior MasterChef.” I have some empathy with her. My kids have both been super fussy eaters and are very particular even if they aren’t MasterChefs themselves.
PPS I know I haven’t actually finished this post yet. However, I’d forgotten all about touching on the US election. I don’t know if I would’ve voted for Trump or Biden, but I’ looking forward to the changing of the guard.
For me, 2020 has become a year of extreme baking where I’ve broken out of my straight jacket of tried and tested caution and taken on many risks, and my family and friends have been more than willing guinea pigs.
Last week, I thought I’d reached my zenith with the precarious Tree House Cake I created for a friend’s birthday. Moreover, just to blow the risk out of the park, we needed to transport the cake without the chocolate house sliding off its perch. Indeed, at one point, Geoff had to slam on the brakes and I almost leaped out of my skin!! However, the cake survived, and was an amazing success.
Perhaps, it was that success which spurred me on to attempt this week’s total insanity. You know how it is. You take a huge gamble. Have a bit of success, and it goes to your head. Now, you think you can do ANYTHING! Indeed, you’ve become invincible.
Moreover, I’ve also been watching Masterchef Junior where you see pint-sized supremoes conjure up the most incredible and unbelievable dishes out of the weirdest and most exotic flavours and ingredient combinations. You can either be incredibly humbled, or inspired to have a go yourself. I haven’t tried to replicate their dishes. However, time and time again, I’ve seen how you can jazz up a simple dish with a few added elements and create something truly spectacular and utterly scrumptious. So, I think it’s fairly fair to say that Masterchef Junior has fuelled my courage, spirit of experimentation and my seeming passion for skiing straight over a cliff, and expecting to land on both skis. Indeed, Masterchef has turned baking into an extreme sport.
Added to this mix, there’s the coronavirus. With so many of the usual sources of excitement, entertainment and facets of simply being human prohibited, perhaps it’s not surprising that I’ve turned to baking for a buzz. What else is there to do, especially for those of us who are in a high risk category and need to isolate and stay out of circulation as much as possible?
However, countering these temptations to succomb to extreme baking, there’s my mother’s tried and tested cooking advice. Indeed, I’ll call it “Mum’s Golden Rule” and that reads: “Never cook anything for a special occasion that you haven’t tried and tested at home first.” Clearly, that’s very good advice, especially when people are counting on you.
Yet, as I said, I’ve been throwing caution to the wind lately, and there’s no better illustration than my decision to bake Bombe Alaska for my friend’s 60th Birthday Party on Friday night.
After the famed tree house cake, I couldn’t just dish up a dried up sponge cake. No, it had to be spectacular. Have a sense of theatre, especially as she’s a performer and loves a lot of sparkle. So, what could be better and offer more theatre than a bombe…a Bombe Alaska? Not that I’ve ever tried baking Bombe Alaska before. Indeed, I’ve never even seen or tasted it before. So, I really was flying blind. Yet, how hard could it be? You just follow the recipe and Bob’s your uncle. Your bombe is ready to explode.
Well, at least, I knew I had to clear carve out a massive hole for the huge bowl of ice cream in the overloaded freezer. After all, baking isn’t just about creativity. There’s a lot of science and meticulous preparation, which can seem a bit boring and dull, but it’s just as important as the baking process itself.
In case you don’t know much about making Bombe Alaska either, the bombe itself is made out of 6 cups of ice cream which is packed into a pudding basin. This goes back into the freezer to set, and then upended on top of a cake base, covered in meringue and baked in the oven at 200 degrees celsius. Of course, baking ice cream in the oven really goes against the grain. Doesn’t the ice cream melt into a ginormous puddle and DISASTER strikes?!! However, this is where the science comes in. The meringue is supposed to act like a shell insulating the ice cream inside while the outside forms a voluminous crust. After the meringue shell is lightly browned, you take it out of the oven, pour warm brandy over the top and light a match…KERBOOM!!!
Well, at least that’s what’s supposed to happen…
As I said, this was the first time I’ve even made Bombe Alaska, and it’s not a dessert I’m even familiar with.
Just to complicate matters further, I significantly altered the recipe. The original recipe used a combination of vanilla ice cream, frozen raspberries and lemon sorbet on a sponge cake base. However, I had a layer of chocolate ice cream on top and a mixture of vanilla and raspberries inside and I replaced the sponge cake with a gooey Flourless Chocolate Cake. After finding out the mix for the chocolate cake was big enough to make 2 cakes, I also made some Nutella Buttercream Icing and spread lashings of icing, roasted hazelnuts, Violet Crumble over both cakes and the other cake became home for the Happy Birthday candles.
Unfortunately, the chances of the Bombe working out were always going to be low. The party was being held at a friend’s place and I had to beat up the meringue at home before we left, a good two hours before it headed into the oven. Obviously, that delay was hardly ideal. The other concern was that I didn’t know whether I’d have enough meringue to seal it properly, and I couldn’t just whip up more on the spot. So, I was really taking a huge chance.
Yet, surprisingly I just shrugged off the doubt and the possibility we’d be drinking our bombe out of mugs. However, despite the obvious insanity of proceeding with the bombe, I could sense in my heart that the bombe was meant to be – whether it worked out or not. I was just following orders. BTW, taking a chance like this is very out of character for me. I’m usually quite the perfectionist albeit in a quirky, haphazard guise. I don’t like failure and usually play it safe.
So, without any further ado, the bombe goes into the oven and there’s a group of spectators hovering around the oven door. We’re intrigued, and rather curious to see what happens when you put ice cream in the oven. It certainly goes against the grain and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Moreover, again I’m wondering why I took on such a risk, and so publicly. What was I thinking? Indeed, was I thinking at all?
All goes well for the first few critical minutes, but it doesn’t take long for trouble to brew. A hole opens up in the meringue and the chocolate ice cream pokes it’s head out. Oh no! I’m hoping it can just manage to hold itself together until the meringue has browned. However, reminiscent of the Christchurch earthquake, the ice cream begins to liquify. More meringue slides down the embankment and it’s pretty clear there’s nothing I can do to salvage the wreck. Yet, I’m still trying to brown the meringue so it’s not just a sticky moat of rawness around the base. Ever the optimist, I haven’t given up yet and I’m still hoping we’ll somehow be able to light the brandy and get the bombe to go off. However, we ended up being a bit confused about what to do with the brandy and how to heat it, and we were also doubtful it would light on the ice cream surface now the meringue had washed away. However, it didn’t work. So, we’ll end up calling this “a learning experience”.
Yet, the Bombe Alaska still tasted really good and still had a lot of theatre, suspense and it made everyone happy. Moreover, it did what it was really intended to do, and that was to show my friend how much I love and value her. It helped to make her birthday extra special, and that’s what I particularly wanted for her as Covid has hit her business really hard and she’s had to do a hell of a lot of soul searching this year. That’s what really mattered, and what’s important about my baking… seeing people smiling inside and out.
So, although the bombe didn’t light and all the meringue fell off in the oven, I still consider it a success and I’m planning to have another go fairly soon at home. See if I can perfect this spectacular dessert and possibly come up with a Christmas variation.
It’s exploding with possibilities.
Have you ever had or baked Bomb Alaska? What are your secrets for getting it to work out? I’d love to hear from you.
Anyway, were you almost shocked like me that it’s now November and another year has almost gone up in smoke? I know this year is 2020, and it’s a year we’d all like to accelerate through, destroy, blow up, delete or all of the above. However, a year is still a year, and good things have happened in 2020. My cousin and his wife had a baby last week and friends got married and we’ve even been to a few parties lately. Of course, we’re rather shielded from the full impact of the virus and also extensive lockdowns here, but I’ve also been researching WWI intensively this year and that puts 2020 into perspective.
Last week was a bit clunky around here. There’s been the ongoing saga of our son’s subject choices for his last year at school and trying to keep him there for another year when he doesn’t need it to go into sound engineering. I’ve been doing my research which is very slow and I must admit I’ve been doing a lot of avoidance. I find it all confusing, and since I went down the university path and that was over 30 years ago, a lot has changed and I’m starting to feel like I’m from the era of the horse and cart (or is that actually his impression of me?) Not much has been said for a few days and he was home sick today. I can’t help wondering if I lie low and don’t say anything, he’ll accidentally get through Year 12 and he’ll at least have that under his belt before he heads off to TAFE to get a trade certificate to get into the sound engineering course he wants to do. However, this is probably too much to hope for and more stress is just around the corner.
Meanwhile, my research is progressing well. I’m still beavering away on my WWI research. I posted yesterday a South Australian farmer I’m researching, Herbert A Stewart who found close to 200 messages in bottles washed up on the beach near his home in Rendelsham , South Australia. He forwarded the letters onto their intended destinations with a cover letter, and there was one day where he found 47 bottles. So, at times he was really under the pump and while this would seem a unconventional way of supporting the war effort, it would’ve made such a difference to the families and friends of these men. I was also surprised to find that some of the messages in bottles thrown overboard in the Great Australian Bight were found in New Zealand. That’s extraordinary. I’ve also found it rather calming and reassuring to think about the ocean currents circulating around the world regardless of everything else that’s going on just like the sunrise and the sunset. There’s that continuity. At least, there was before cllimate change.
This afternoon, I went for a quick walk along the beach. Even though it’s almost Summer here, a cold wind was blowing and so I just did my walk and didn’t hang about. Not unsurprisingly, I almost expecting to find piles of bottles scattered across the beach after doing all my research. However, there wasn’t much to see on our beach today….just a jellyfish.
Meanwhile, it’s getting quite late. So, I’m going to head off.
So, what’s been going on for you? I hope you’re okay and keeping safe.
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’m not sure whether you can help me, but I’m hopeful.
After all, one of the things I appreciate about blogging, is how you can write and share your ideas before you’ve fully nutted them out. You can test the waters, and even hook up with others interested in the same area and collaborate in a more low-key environment. This is particularly good, too, when your nearest and dearest in terms of love, relationships and DNA, doesn’t share your research interest. Indeed, many of us would be better off talking to the dog, or trading in the cat.
However, by heading online too soon, you risk making mistakes, and there’s a definite safety in holding back until you’ve dotted the i’s crossed the t’s. Possible wisdom in staying offline perfecting your manuscript and seeing it published in print, even if your scribblings might be set in stone.
Of course, operating within the university context can provide the ideal nursery environment to safely nurture your research project and receive much needed mentoring support. However, there’s still that sense that you need to have your “shit” together before you put it out there, even as a concept. Indeed, embarking into the realms of professional research is very daunting. After all, “thou shalt not make a mistake” is its first commandment, but we’re only human. Even if it’s only a comma out of place, it’s still a mistake, and at the very least, you have to live with your own censure.
My personal journey along the serious research path is even lonelier than most. While research has been part and parcel of my writing and I have an honours degree in history, my current interests have been fuelled by the events of late 1999 and 2020. Firstly, I was forced inside by thick, suffocating bushfire smoke when I simply couldn’t breathe for weeks at a time, and I depended on our air-conditioner. After a brief intermission, I was back inside self-isolating from the coronavirus, which turned into lockdown, back to self-isolation. All I can say about that, is thank goodness for my research. It’s been a lifeline this year.
So, after keeping virtually all this research offline, I’ve decided to cast a line out into the world wide web. Moreover, just like anybody going fishing, I’m optimistic my efforts won’t return with an empty hook, and I’ll find a great big fish dangling at the end of the line,
The blog has come through for me before, and I’m hoping it will deliver once again, even if this approach does seem equally random as the very messages I’m chasing. They were written by Australian and New Zealand troops and sealed inside bottles and often thrown overboard as they crossed the Great Australian Bight with a hope they’d eventually find their intended destination.
However, my primary focus isn’t on the troops themselves, but on a South Australian farmer who found almost 200 messages in bottles near Rivoli Bay on the Limestone Coast. Not only that, Herbert A Stewart of “Bleakfield”, Rendelsham forwarded the messages to their intended destinations with a cover letter, and he even went to the trouble of forwarding letters written by NZ troops on to New Zealand.
While you would think that forwarding messages in bottles doesn’t make much of a difference to the war effort, when you look at it on this scale, it takes on a different slant. Indeed, I’m incredibly inspired by Herbert’s dedication, hard work, love and compassion for the soldiers and their families. Indeed, I’d love to be more like him.
By the way, it’s worth putting Herbert’s efforts into some kind of context. While it wasn’t unusual for soldiers to throw messages in bottles overboard in transit, so far I haven’t come across anyone else finding the sheer number of messages Herbert found. As far as I can tell, he found at least 180 bottles, and on the 31st August, 1916, he found a record 47 messages. The closest I’ve come across is Harbour Master, Ned Carrison, of Port McDonnell, South Australia who found 10 bottles on the 16th July, 1916 not far from Herbert’s stomping ground.
At the moment, I’ve only been able to identify 22 of the messages found by Herbert Stewart, and this is clearly only the tip of the iceberg. It looks like Herbert kept a record of all the messages he’d found, and I’m hoping that’s somehow been preserved. I’d also imagine that there are families out there who still know the story of how an ancestor or loved one’s message was forwarded to them by Herbert A Stewart of Bleakfield, Rendelsheim, South Australia. I would love to hear from you.
I’m also interested in the WWI messages in bottles in general. So, I’d love to hear from you if that’s of interest.
While researching messages in bottles might seem quirky and eccentric, the reality is that each bottle is a time capsule preserving a fragment of a much larger journey of a soldier, or group of soldiers heading across the ocean to the front. Moreover, they also tell a story about the person who finds the bottle. Who were they, and what were they do on the beach? They often had to work hard to salvage the scrap of paper which had been floating adrift at the mercy of the sea. I’ve read about bottles turning up covered in seaweed and barnacles. Messages which are wet and barely legible but the finder is just able to pick out an address, a name, a detail and the message has been printed in a newspaper. There was a message written by an Australian soldier which was found by a Maori man on the beach in New Zealand, Herbert Stewart also found a letter by a Maori man from the 1st Maori Continent which was found near Rivoli Bay, South Australia. Indeed, there’s something rather touching about the currents carrying these bottles across boarders and boundaries, especially when I’ve been conducting my research during Covid where we have boundaries on boundaries on boundaries, and we can’t even hug a friend. The ocean, on the other hand, knows no boundaries and these messages in bottles rose from the deep, and went where they went until they were found, retrieved and passed on. Sadly, some of these messages took years to research their destination and by that time, some of their scribes had inevitably died…killed in action, died of wounds, casualties of a foreign war.
Anyway, if you have any information to share or would like to pick my brains, please leave a message. I’d love to hear from you.