The pink candle
Is the one you light
on the third Sunday of Advent
no more than a fortnight, two Sundays
before Christmas day
the idea is to spend this month before the Feast
reflecting on the woes of the world and
on the promises God makes to his people
of forgiveness, justice, hope, peace
heavy, serious, life-changing, world-changing stuff;
so for one day, before the Big Day, we lighten up a little
and have some pink among the dark colours
to rejoice a little
I wonder if we are so busy
partying among the tinsel
– another mince pie, sir?
Don’t the little ones look cute
Don’t drink and drive
– and so on –
so busy celebrating that we haven’t
got the time to rejoice a little
in the cosmic blessings that
we barely glimpse even
when we are paying attention
… and thank you to Mandy who made it. It is fair to say that I am fairly fussy about what fudge I eat (not keen on the glucose syrup which is often used in commercial types and which I think ruins the texture). However, this particular homemade fudge with its unusual ingredient, beetroot, worked well both in taste and texture. Had I not been told, I would never have guessed that there was any vegetable in it.
Unfortunately, I do not have the recipe to share with you.
When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I remember hard toilet tissue and soft toilet tissue. The soft variety was expensive and when I was very young it did not feature in our household. It was much more comfortable when my “elders and betters” decided we could afford soft toilet tissue – and we haven’t looked back since, so to speak.
Paper became cheap – that is convenient. Paper became more plentiful – and we started to get wasteful. Such a pity. Perhaps there is a more environmental alternative out there; I don’t know. In the meantime I still read books and the occasional newspaper or magazine. Yes, there are electronic devices such as the one I am tying on just now – and I am not complaining – but you can’t wrap up a birthday present with a computer. And wallpaper that goes on real walls has to be, well, paper.
It was paper that meant that ideas could be spread round as many people as could read. It was paper that has meant that the Bible became available to millions. I don’t think paper has had its day – I still like to paint and draw when I may – but even if its time is coming to an end, I am grateful for many of the pictures, words, and the Word, that it has brought my way.
That’s of the weather variety. At first glance, when we’ve been complaining about a bitter cold wind, it might seem like a strange choice.
I could wax lyrical about windmills, wind turbines (controversial though they are), sailing and the colour spinners that brighten up gardens and sandcastles. But that is not the point I am making. Nor is it how the wind helps pollinate trees and other plants and thereby is an essential part of ecology – not to mention producing some of our food.
I am thinking of something more basic. Wind is moving air: from high pressure to low pressure. It is in large part due to the difference in temperature between the equator and the poles. Wind helps to share the heat (and energy) round the world. Wind brings some of the warmth of the South to the North (I live in the Northern hemisphere). I thank God for wind because it is a natural mechanism that shares the blessing of the sun’s warmth around the world. To be sure it is not a simple mechanism and too much wind can be damaging. But I thank God for the wind because it helps even things out round the planet we live on.
There is an intermittent conversation between the various branches of our family about what constitutes enough/too much salt – there is a balance to be struck somewhere, I suppose, but the unspoken assumption is that we do need some salt in our daily diet. This past winter we’ve needed rather more than average for frosty roads and paths. (Apparently an added ingredient, used by some councils and agencies, is molasses to make sure it doesn’t get washed or blown away too quickly). Time was when people were paid their salary in salt because it was both a useful and a valuable commodity. You don’t hear much about a salt standard these days – not sure if salt would work as an alternative to dollars, euros and pounds.
… railways. This is not meant as a political statement on the 50th anniversary of the Beeching report into Britain’s railway system. It’s just that I want to do a bit better at counting my blessings. I don’t want to get into a philosophical debate about freewill, divine inspiration etc. I think that one can appreciate the talent of our railway pioneers and thank God for the blessing that railways are. Yes, there is the occasional story like “the wrong kind of snow”, but being able to travel great distances at speed is a boon.
I needed to do something constructive (a distraction from a situation which was winding me up quite nicely – I was “irritated” – please note that was British understatement).
So I undertook an experiment with chocolate. You see, these days I find I still find plain (dark) chocolate too bitter for my taste but most milk chocolate not chocolatey enough. I have, in the past tried melting some of each, perhaps with a tablespoon of water or a knob of butter, but with varying degrees of success. This time I decided to melt the chocolate into an already-warm liquid, namely marshmallow and milk. I doubt if I’m the first with this idea but it did work – at least other members of the family agreed. They don’t like marshmallow so the idea of the recipe did not appeal to them but when they tried some their only critical comment was that the chocolate was ‘sticky’ rather than just ‘soft’ – and then they took another piece.
Here’s what I did:
Into a microwaveable glass bowl I put four pieces of marshmallow and a splash of milk (it was what was left over in the bottle so I guess it was about three tablespoons’ worth). I microwaved it on ‘high’ for 30 seconds – that was all that was needed. Then I added a knob of butter (about an ounce? 30g?) and stirred it about a bit. Next I added eight squares (50g or nearly two ounces) each of plain chocolate (50% cocoa solids) and milk chocolate (30% cocoa solids) and stirred them in until it was obvious that the mixture had cooled a bit. I heated the mixture for a further 30 seconds (that was enough) and stirred it again until it was smooth. The mixture was soft but not too runny. I poured it onto some baking parchment (anything non stick would have done, foil even) in a tin and left it to cool. It was kept in the fridge – at least it was until it was “discovered”.
One lesson I have been learning is that it is OK to do something you enjoy without having “deserved” it. That is not a licence to be selfish but permission to take a step back from our troubles from time to time. Hence this recipe. It has the virtue of having worked and is easily repeatable.