During our most recent Uxbridge Writers' Circle meeting, we elected to hold a ten-minute on-the-spot writing challenge. I chose the prompt 'shortbread' because we'd been teasing one of our members about our disappointment with him. He is an excellent shortbread baker but didn't have time to make any for the Circle. So, we had to make a big deal of it, didn't we?
And the obvious choice for a prompt was 'shortbread'.
We don't have any time to prepare for the challenge unless we choose to use some of the precious ten minutes in 'thinking' about what to write. Curiously, what came into my head was making shortbread when I was in high school. We were taught to start with a slab of butter and knead the flour and sugar into it.
But the problem was, in those days (yes, a long time ago!) we used pens that we dipped into pots of blue ink which had an uncanny propensity to colour our fingers. So, our shortbread inevitably had a blue tinge to it.
Here's what I wrote. (Challenge yourself to write a story about shortbread in ten minutes. You'll have fun!).
James knew he should take something to his mother-in-law's house. He had been invited for tea - which was a surprise, under the circumstances. Tea meant cakes, cookies, and candies. Pearl, his mother-in-law, indulged in all things sweet, but the intake of all that sugar didn't quash the bitterness of her personality. She loathed James and had often told him so, but she needed to talk with him. It was important.
Her daughter, Sylvania, had told James to take an offering of something sweet. It wouldn't make things great, but it would help. Then the question was what to take? Sylvania said her mother didn't like supermarket garbage - it would have to be homemade but she had no time. James would have to make something.
That sent him into a tailspin. He didn't know anything about baking. BBQ, yes. Baking, no.
He scrolled through various recipes online and one for shortbread popped up. It was a traditional British recipe that sounded difficult but he thought he could cheat. Rather than kneading the mixture of flour and sugar by hand into a lump of butter, he creamed the butter and sugar with beaters and then kneaded the flour into the creamy mixture. He pressed the soft dough into a baking sheet, baked it, cut it while hot, dowsed it in green sugar crystals, and prayed.
He displayed the shortbread on a doily on a bone china plate rimmed in gold, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and walked to Pearl's house.
Pearl poured the dark tea into a small quantity of milk in each cup.
She took one bite of his shortbread and actually smiled. James was so shocked he spilled his tea onto her white carpet.
Vicky Earle Copyright 2023
The way James made shortbread is how I have made it for years! Perhaps I shouldn't have shared this secret. Promise you won't tell.
Where Have the Racehorses Gone?
The 2023 racing season at Woodbine Racetrack is close to the end.
Thoroughbred racehorses live at Woodbine during the season but have to find another home during the winter months.
(In some other racing jurisdictions, horses are transported in for race days and are based at training facilities).
Last winter, It's a Fluke stayed with us. But this year we've decided that he should have playmates and that our mares (27 and 21 years old) would not be good companions. He played with our dog, Raven, but that had me on tenterhooks sometimes!
Here's It's a Fluke in our barn last winter:
So, he is staying at another farm recommended by his trainer. We plan to visit him and take carrots (we dare not show up without them!).
He will start training at this farm in the early new year so that he's in good shape to race soon after the start of the new racing season. He will be 4.
Mimi is staying at the farm where she was 'broken in' (what a terrible term!). We've only visited her once, but we plan to see her a few times over the winter. I expect there are plans to start working with her in the early spring so that she's ready to begin exercising on the training track at Woodbine in the spring.
Audi is at his home where he was born. He has a playmate and lots of space to run. We hope to visit him before Christmas.
Some horses are shipped to the US for the winter or part of it. Sometimes they run in some races down there, or they have a rest and then train to get ready for an early start at Woodbine in the spring. Audi will be going to Florida in the new year.
Both Mimi and Audi will be 2 in 2024 so they will need lots of time and patience in order to build their bone density and muscle tone without injury.
There is controversy about whether or not sending horses to warmer climates and starting training earlier actually makes a difference in their racing success.
It probably depends on the horse!
We're not telling Fluke or Mimi that Audi is off to Florida. We're pretty sure that, if they were given the choice in the middle of winter, they'd be off!
But I remember how much Fluke enjoyed cantering through the deep snow last year! Perhaps it's not so bad!