>Violet cupcakes!

>I don’t profess to be a food photographer, as will soon become evident, but I sure can cook.

Today I made a dozen violet cupcakes, 32 lemon & mint biscuits (cookies), and an apricot cut-and-come-again cake. I also did some work on the Christmas annual.

I’ve made the apricot cake loads of times, but I turned it from the pan too soon and it broke. But it still tastes perfectly fine and it will get a lot more broken up when it’s eaten.

Biscuits I’ve never had much joy with, and I thought these were going the same way. But they’ve cooked nicely and they taste like melt-in-your-mouth shortbread with the tangy taste of lemon and an … impression of mint. They’re still not brilliant, I should have had 40 and ended up with 32 – well, 33 but one was so small it’s hardly worth counting. All I can think is that my dough sausages weren’t long enough …

The cupcakes are delightful. I don’t know why I’ve never discovered fondant icing before now. It’s so much easier to use than glace icing, and it’s thicker so spreads better. I didn’t use any food colouring as the violet syrup already coloured the icing enough for me.

>They’d better be good

>I located the best price violet syrup I could find and paid extra for next day delivery. (The Whisky Exchange, of all places, but they have lots and I can think of loads of other flavours I want to try in future. I’ve also noted that they have several liqueurs to choose from too.) Even with the extra delivery cost it was cheaper than any of the other places. I’m going to make these blinking cupcakes on Saturday if it kills me, and everyone that has one had better enjoy it, because I’m going to carry on making them until the syrup runs out.

They’re gonna have white sugar flowers on them this time – I’ll do a sugarcraft order when I have time to organise and plan properly – and I’ll keep an eye out in future for crystalised violets and other violet syrups.

Meanwhile, there WILL be violet cupcakes in May.

Thanks to everyone that put comments and suggestions either in here or via email. I also had a call out over on the Money Saving Experts forum, and had lots of feedback.

I ordered gold dust saffron too, once I found the best online price + best delivery price. As soon as that gets here I’ll try the saffron cake as well. The recipe is for 2 loaves – I can get fresh yeast from the supermarket or I have dried packet yeast in my storecupboard. I always keep dried fruit in stock.

Yesterday I had my copy read back to me on the Barcelona trip. It’s going to be in Full House Magazine, issue 25, on sale 10 June.

>What a palaver

>Well, what a song and dance I’ve had looking for violet-flavoured ingredients. I found lots of websites in Europe that sell violet aroma, extract and flavouring, and one UK site that sells it, but it’s Very Expensive. The UK site is the cheapest, but even so it’s more than £20 (apx $28) with delivery. I can also get violet liquor from Europe – about 20ml for about €2 (about £1.70 or $2.45), so I checked how much I need … and the liquor/extract is optional, so I’ll opt out of that one for now.

Sugarcraft decorations are slightly better, I can get 20 – 50 sugar violets for around £2 ($3), or I can get a jar of crystalised violets if I can find a Waitrose (or order online) for around £3 ($5). I can get grape violet sugarpaste colouring, but I don’t know if I can use that in fondant icing (frosting), or I can mix red and blue together. I picked up a pack of sugar decorations last night for just over £1. I thought they were violet/lilac and white, but at home the purple ones actually look blue, so I may use just the white ones or I may get some proper ones from the internet. I can use violet syrup in the icing to flavour it, if I want and if I can find it, and I bought red and blue food colouring.

A friend asked why I couldn’t just stick to my usual currant or cherry buns. Well, I’m bored of those and I want to try something different. By the time I get around to these violet cupcakes, though, the summer will be almost over, let alone spring. I want to make them on Saturday and take some to my parents on Sunday.

Saffron, I found, is almost as valuable as gold. Just 1g for nearly £4 ($6). I’ll have to check that recipe, see how much I need and if it’s worth it. But I understand they use a lot in Cornwall, and I can’t see them paying gold prices in Cornwall.

Last night I also picked up a mint plant for the kitchen, and a bag of lemons. The lemon and mint biscuits (cookies) are a bit like shortbread, apparently, so if I make some of those on Saturday as well, the parents will be getting a batch of them too.

If I manage to make any of these on Saturday, I’m going to take a picture and post it in here.

Meanwhile, in the background (or, actually, in the foreground), I’m working hard on the magazine, on the gig list for June, on the Christmas annual, on the June budget, and on Catch the Rainbow.

>Cooking

>I have this pile of seasonal country cooking magazines that so far I’ve done nothing with. I have a(n empty) binder for at least 12 of them, but I’m blowed if I can find a whole year – I know September and October are somewhere, I just have to find them. The other evening I browsed through May and June (2008, but hey – seasonal is the same every year, yeah?) and I think I’m going to give a couple of the recipes a bash.

Lamb is in season now. I love lamb but always and only buy British. There’s a nice recipe for “noisettes” (whatever they are), so I’m going to give those a go, plus dauphine potatoes. I found an unusual salad recipe – baby beetroot, baby new potatoes, salad leaves and feta cheese – which I’m going to try, although it looks substantial enough for a meal in its own right rather than as an accompaniment.

There were some violet cupcakes. Violet. Apparently I can get violet liquor, violet essence, and candy violets for the tops, but I’m damned if I’ve ever seen any of them on the shelves in any of the supermarkets I use. If I can find the violet stuff, I’m gonna try the violet things too, and I’m hoping the fondant icing (frosting) isn’t too fussy for me. Finally, there are some lemon and mint biscuits (cookies), which are rolled into, and cut from, a sausage shape.

After I’ve given these a go from the May magazine, I’ll take a peek into the June one. There were some haddock goujons with pureed peas in May, and those looked really nice, but by the time I get onto those we’ll be into June, so I’ll see what I can find in the June magazine. If there’s nothing in June I’ll jump back to May, as there’s also a saffron fruit cake bar that looks good.

I’ve not done any cooking or baking for ages. I’ve been getting biscuits (Jammie Dodgers) on special offer, buy one get one free, and the same with cake bars. I’m also working my way through the freezer and filling the resulting gaps with plastic bottles and containers filled with water. There’s so much stuff in there I need to take stock and I already threw some sausages out that didn’t look very good.

Over the past few days it’s been so hot I’ve been having salads – chicken, seafood, nicoise – but I need to get back to the freezer so I can empty the old stuff and start batch cooking fresh again.

>Who’s going to Caerleon?

>Well, I ummed and ahhed, and did quite a lot of budget rejiggery, but my summer holiday was still in there and yesterday I booked my place. I decided on another writers’ holiday as I got so much out of the weekend in February in Fishguard, and will keep the walking to weekends for now until I’m ready to do that Thames Path.

I’m going to do the next stage of writing the novel, this time with Jane Pollard, and I’m taking the plunge and joining the lovely Kate Walker on her writing romantic fiction. Absolutely no disrespect to all the romance writers out there, this is something I want to do for me, but Kate will have to prise the sick bucket out of my hands. It’s just the way I am and I have to fix it. I want to fix it.

It was a hard choice because I also wanted to do the crime writing with Susan Moody and Janet Laurence, and the positively productive writer with Simon Whaley. But if I do the romance in the summer, if I go back next winter I can do the advanced writing romance with Kate. And it will be great to see the babe magnet again. :oD

I chose the Cardiff City excursion as I’ve never been there and we get 3 hours – I can feel a visit to the castle coming on.

So, who else is going?

>At last – something goes right

>My car went in this morning for its MOT … and it passed, although with a warning that the exhaust back box may be next to go as it’s “showing signs of deterioration”. That means it’s rotting. But at least the car came in at budget this time, and with pay day tomorrow that deserves a Whoop! And at least I can plan and budget the exhaust replacement.

Yesterday I got the hearing back in one ear, so I’m back to mono sound at least. I think the other ear is starting to improve too, so fingers crossed I can actually go out this weekend. I’m planning on a run to see the parents and if I get back in time, a band mate of mine has a birthday and I’d like to be able to buy him a proper drink for a change.

While I waited at the garage this morning I started to do some diary work. I read Writing Magazine for some of the time, and it made me quite motivated, and that’s when I got the diary out.

Plan for today, then, is an hour on the gig list for June (I can’t believe how quickly May has flown – and a 5-week month too), another hour of diary work, an hour of proof-reading, time on the Christmas annual, 1,000 words of writing, and 30 minutes of Yoga.

>Good work

>I sat in the yard yesterday soaking up glorious sunshine that wasn’t too hot, and I managed the manual edits on ALL of the magazine (that I have in). I also managed to get a bit of colour into my legs, arms and face. I got some washing done, and there’s another load almost ready to go out today.

Last night I stayed in, didn’t see the point in going to see a band if I couldn’t hear them.

Today I’m going to nip into the office to do the electronic edits (I could do that here, but the set up is better there and it will be quicker), and other database stuff I can only do there. On the way back I’ll pick up a bit of shopping and some bird food.

Tonight I’ll be staying in again. I’m still deaf, and I still have a bit of a throat, but the exhaustion seems to have finally disappeared.

>This isn’t good …

>I went to the hospital yesterday and they had me in there straightaway. The consultant didn’t want to take the knife to me yet, so he asked if we could lance it for now, while I waited (ha ha ha, he could hardly do it while I nipped out), and if it comes back in the next 6 months, he’ll whip it out then. Lots of people have said there’s no point getting it lanced as it usually comes back again, but I saw his point and as he could do it there and then …

So the lump was lanced and dressed and today it’s feeling a teeny bit bruised from the needle … but there’s still a lump there. I don’t know yet if it’s a swelling from the needle or the loose vacuum left behind. Time will tell, but I have a number to get me in there straightaway again if necessary.

The ear infection isn’t doing very well. Until the doc can see the eardrum he won’t prescribe antibiotics, so I’m pouring in olive oil every night like there’s no tomorrow, but it’s not feeling any better yet. The nausea has gone, but that’s about it. However, today I’m starting to get a bit of a throat and that I am worrying about.

Had I not had 2 meetings today, I would have stayed home again, but I struggled in … to find the first meeting had been cancelled. The second meeting I was going to ask to have postponed until next Tuesday anyway as I can’t hear a thing hardly at the moment and as it’s a big meeting it was a waste of time me going. There’s a duplicate of the session on Tuesday so I may go to that one anyway – if I can hear.

So I have all of the magazine bundled up for editing – I’ve done the ordering, collecting, collating, merging, formating, printing and saving – and I emailed the electronic versions to myself. I’m going to take the magazine home tonight and stay there for the next 4 days at least, keeping my germs to myself (although I am popping out to get the car MOTd on Monday morning). I also have the Christmas annual all planned out, I’m just waiting to see what other graphics the design team has before I fire off my first lot of instructions.

This is nice work I can do anywhere and will probably do snuggled up in front of the fire (if necessary – the evenings are still a tad chilly at the moment), or in the yard in the sunshine. And I’m going into hiding. If the ears unblock I can call the doc and get some antibiotics, but if it does spread to the throat, I can get some for that anyway.

If I don’t see you before, have a good weekend.

>Ear infection :o(

>Friday night was a really good night out, but too much loud music in a small area combined with several different lurgies going around (including 2 of the band members, poor things) resulted in me waking up deaf and flu-like on Monday morning. My dentist took heap big pity on me and let me off the 2 fillings I was due – they can’t have been that due, then – but yesterday was a day in bed.

Today I still feel fluey, nauseous and deaf, but as I was coming to Sleepy Hollow anyway to visit the hospital (across the road), I thought I’d do half a day around my appointment and get as much work done as possible. Tomorrow I’ll see how I feel. I do have 2 appointments, but if I’m still deaf, there’s not much point in me attending unless they have subtitles.

One of those magic cheque things arrived in the post on Saturday – they always seem to just when I need them – so that has really helped relieve the financial pressure between now and pay day.

I have all of the magazine in except for about 2 articles that were coming in later, and I’m still working on the Christmas annual.

I just added the World Cup fixtures to the gig list too, as already some of our gigs are affected by the football (soccer). Some venues are cancelling the bands, others are making the most of it and making it a double-whammy. As I’m interested in the tournament, and as it’s technically “my” gig list, I hope the non-football music fans won’t mind too much. I’d add the kick-off times too, but they’re listed in local time and I’m not sure when I click “my time zone” whether it converts to UK time or NL time (work’s server routes via the NL). If I get chance I’ll try again from home, but it’s already added extra work to the gig list for June and July.