Fun With A Chelsea Cupcake Masterclass!

*wipes forehead*

What a weekend of fun I’ve just had! After being lucky enough to go to Elton John’s concert in Dunedin on Friday night (blog post coming this week), I was then also lucky enough to get to go to Auckland on Sunday, for an afternoon Cupcake Masterclass run by Chelsea Sugar! My Mum (of course!) had won two spots at the Masterclass for us both. We got flown up to Auckland by Chelsea Sugar and everything – I felt like such a VIP, what with having our taxi paid for (and I’m glad it was, the taxi fare from Auckland Airport to Parnell is not pretty!) and arriving to a wonderful gluten-free lunch made especially for me and my Mum, with THE nicest caramel/chocolate slice ever! Om nom! We were given a brilliant goodie bag, filled with baking treats from Chelsea, a cupcake cookbook, and a lovely apron, as modelled by moi above πŸ˜‰

The Cupcake Masterclass itself was run by Milly’s Kitchen, and so we were treated to amazingly skilled instructors. We were given a heap of epic skills to create our masterpieces… and so, I thought I’d share my cupcakes with you guys! πŸ™‚

So, first up was the Lemon Cupcakes (which I’m holding in the first photo). The different elements were…

  • lemon curd filling, which we punched inside the cupcakes with a nozzle (no scooping out the cupcake, wheee!)
  • a lemon cream cheese icing made using the yummy Chelsea Lemon Flavoured Icing Sugar
  • the fondant flower decorations…

…which were incredibly fun to make! First off, we used a leaf cutter to make the leaves.

The ones on the left are Mum’s, the ones on the right are mine. That white instrument you can see in the background was what we used to mark the veins on the leaves πŸ™‚

Next came the actual rose! This was one of my favourite parts of the class πŸ˜€

The top ones are my roses, and the bottom ones are Mum’s roses. Hehee, as you can see, mine are rather less elegant! My second attempt (right) *was* much better though, and I don’t mind if they don’t look exactly like roses… I don’t actually know that much about real roses vs other real flowers, so… πŸ˜›

Now, to put them all together! – and, we couldn’t forget the BLING! (ie. edible glitter, wheeeeee!)

Next up… Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes. These had…

For the chocolate filigree, we had to pipe out melted chocolate from a piping bag made from baking paper. It was… an interesting experience, that’s for sure! πŸ˜€ I learnt that laughing while piping does not make for the most even of lines. However, at least I wasn’t quite as unco as my dear mother, who went through THREE piping bags because hers kept spilling out over the top, or escaping all over the fine nozzle we had. *giggles* ‘Twas very amusing. Here were my chocolate patterns:

As you can see, I had a bit of fun with my own designs too. Heheee. After they’d set, all that was left to do was put them on the cupcakes! (and BLING it up. Big Time! :D)

Somewhere amongst the mass of chocolate, there is a “L” on the left cupcake, and a “B.J” on the right cupcake. That means that the left one is for my darling brother, and the right one is for me πŸ˜€ Om nom. Virtual cookies (or, should I say, cupcakes!) if you can spot them!

Which leaves only… Raspberry and Vanilla Cupcakes. These consisted of…

  • berry glace icing made from the YUMMY Chelsea Pink Berry Flavoured Icing Sugar. This is my personal fav of the Chelsea Icing Sugars, because it is amazing to watch the white powder turn pink when you mix it! AND when you open the bag, your nose is happily assaulted with the smell of pink marshmellows. *drools*
  • sugared flowers

To make the flowers, we just brushed edible flower petals (we used roses) with the tiniest amount of egg-white, and then coated them lightly in sugar, and left them to dry. That was a novelty for me, because I honestly had no idea you could eat flower petals! *pokes out tongue*

The end result (with the most BLING of them all!):

And so ended our afternoon of fun! And honestly, it was fun in the true sense of the word – silly, crazy, unadulterated and creative, with no rights or wrongs. I don’t think I spend enough time having this kind of fun, so it was good to be reminded of how good it feels πŸ™‚ So, thanks Chelsea Sugar and Milly’s Kitchen! *squeeeee!*

I almost don’t believe that *I* made those! πŸ˜‰ Now, time to eat them… *beams*

Have fun!
Bri xx

NaNo2011: I Think I Survived Week Two!

*wince*

Okay, so I really meant to write a blog post during Week Two, but… that would have been pretty close to impossible for me. Why, exactly? Let’s back track a little bit to Week One.

There I was, having finished my exams on Nov 1st, and off to a flying start. I made the daily 1,667 word target easily in the first three days, and I realised that I loved my MC more than I thought I would!

But.

Over the next five days, I only just managed to scrape together 1,000 words. To blame: my final assignment for my undergraduate degree – a Philosophy Essay. πŸ˜› I just couldn’t find the time to work on my novel, and when I did put some time aside, I ended up feeling insanely guilty for writing my novel when I really should be writing my essay instead. It was… frustrating, to say the least. It was like I’d been given a taste of the familiar and epic craziness of NaNoWriMo, only to have it snatched away after one teensy lick.

So, I finally finished my essay – hooray, officially finished my undergrad degree! – and so it was time to dive into my novel.

*blinks*

Uhhh.

Yeah.

What a fail. I just wasn’t feeling it! Honestly: my muse had deserted me, I had no idea what my characters were doing, I had no plot, the science fiction elements and techno-babble were confusing the heck out of me… and I couldn’t write a word. I started procrastinating by tinkering around on Photoshop, making myself a book cover – which was actually incredibly fun, and I think I came up with a pretty good one! πŸ˜€ But yes – I was around 8,000 words behind, and steadily losing ground each day.

I was definitely feeling the typical, dreaded NaNoWriMo Week Two Blues.

However, I had a few secret ingredients up my sleeve, to create some sort of motivation and set my metaphorical novel ball rolling again.

  • First of all, I had to face the facts – it was far too early in the month to even contemplate giving up. I mean, a whole heap can happen in three weeks. So there was no way that I was going to let myself pack it all in at the first hurdle.
  • This is my 5th NaNo. My real life friends were tackling their 2nd NaNo – and were whipping my tush with their word counts! Eep, the shame! πŸ˜›
  • Plus, the internal pressure – I’ve already won NaNoWriMo, which makes me fully capable of winning again. In fact, I shall never really have a proper excuse to fail, now.
  • And damn it, I was actually falling in love with my characters. And my setting. I didn’t want to tell them all to get lost!

At the mercy of such absolute logic, there was only one thing for it.

Just. Keep. Writing.

So, I did. And believe it or not, things started happening! I killed off a character, I punished another. My two main characters finally meet each other, and start hating each other right on cue. One of my main characters decides to go and get drunk. Oh yes, and then I discover that this same main character has some kind of romantic history with a minor character, which was a surprise to me. But hey, rogue characters FTW! πŸ˜€

And as I got more and more into my story, the easier the words flowed. Which worked really well for my plan to catch up. Yesterday, I wrote 5,000 words in one day – squeeeee! It actually felt relatively effortless, which makes me just want to dance around my room πŸ™‚ I am almost completely caught up now, and have a much clearer idea of my plot.

The main problem I have now is that I am pretty convinced that my novel will not be finished by the time I reach 50k. I’ll be lucky if I’ve reached the climax by that point. Which is slightly troubling… it means that I’m going to have to make a real effort post-November if I want to finish my novel. And of course, I do want to.

But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

For now, let me share some virtual gingerbread men with you all, and celebrate the awesomeness of NaNoWriMo! πŸ˜€

Word Count: 19,288 words
Write on!
Bri xx

A Mini (and most likely amusing) Exam Rant.

Yes. One of those.

I’m sorry, but I just can’t hold it in any longer! *sighs dramatically* Perhaps some of you shall sympathise with me, or just find my entire agony amusing. I don’t mind, either way πŸ˜‰

There I was, all enthused – in a way – about taking my last ever undergraduate degree exam. It was for Classics, a Greek Mythology paper. And yes, the material was super interesting, even if I kind of already knew a lot of it. But… the thing about my lecturer is that he is rather pedantic about the way he does things. Like, the way he words essay questions are just that tiny bit more confusing than they need to be. Our graded essays always have those wee comments about grammar. All that.

Don’t get me wrong, I love him as a lecturer. And a person, I suppose, if that’s not too creepy πŸ˜›

…however, after today, I do not love him as an examiner!

He decided to give us a multi-choice section. Which I hate, religiously, at the best of times. Seriously, give me an essay question that I can far more easily waffle my way through any day. To me, multi-choice is dicey. Yes, you have the answer right there in front of you, but Merlin is it difficult to tell which is the correct one, sometimes!

This particular multi-choice section was just so freaking nasty. We had questions with an outrageous amount of options – the longest having options (a) to (m) – and the difference between some of these options… far out!! Miniscule, absolutely pedantic! Like, I forgot to bring my Sherlock Holmes magifying glass to the exam, sorry. I felt like bursting into tears, or ripping my hair out, or something equally unproductive, about halfway through my initial read-through of it.

I memorized one of the questions just to share with you lot. Aren’t I considerate?

(And yes, I was totally planning this blog post during the exam – a pleasant distraction in an attempt to calm myself.)

In the story of the banquet of Mekone:

(a) we can read an aition of tragedy
(b) we can read an aition of sacrifice
(c) Zeus was angered
(d) spaces between gods and humans are made clearer
(e) spaces between gods and humans and animals are made clearer
(f) spaces between humans and animals are made clearer
(g) all of the above except (a)
(h) all of the above except (b)
(i) all of the above except (c)
(j) all of the above except (d)
(k) all of the above except (e)
(l) all of the above except (f)

I. Kid. You. Not.

Yeah.

My answers:

(a) Errrr, mind blank – what’s an ‘aition’!?!
(b) What the hell is going on with options (d) to (f)!?!
(c) All of the ‘all of the above’ options don’t even make freaking logical sense! In relation to each other. AGH.

So, yeah. In an exam situation, where I have just over a minute to answer these multi-choice questions, I do not have time to be working out what the options even mean. Or the brain power. Then there were those questions asked in a negative format, which always messes with my mind – like, “What is not associated with this?”, with the whole “all of the above” and even “none of the above” thrown in to complicate it even further. Ahh, and then those awesome subjective questions, like “Which is the odd one out?” I could argue for many of them to be the odd one out, it all just depends!

Le sigh.

I believe I took a stab for (l), if you were curious. I don’t really want to remember πŸ˜€

What really screwed me over was the fact that it was the first section of the exam, and so I had worked myself up into such a ball of stress that I just was really not in the exam-mode that I usually am. As such, I don’t feel that I did as well as I would have liked. The words weren’t flowing, the ideas weren’t connecting. I know that I’m my own worst critic, so hopefully I will have done enough not to affect my overall grade for the paper too much.

So yes. There really is only one response to an exam this gruesome.

Hells to the yes.

Thank you for indulging my rant. I’m totally over it now πŸ˜‰

Have fun!
Bri xx

P.S. Happy 50th Blog Post!

NaNo2011: Ready, Set, GO!

*hyperventilates*

November is really here. It always feels slightly unreal, because I’ve been counting down and waiting for so long, that when midnight finally rolls around, I actually end up having a ridiculous panic.

Oh gosh. Day One. First sentence stress. First word stress.

I could screw this novel up right here – doom it forever.

*takes a deep breath*

Yes, even after four years of this, I don’t get any less nervous! Of course, it’s a massive mix of excitment and curiosity and eagerness to just-start-already! And I think it’s a completely normal reaction to have. Reality hits – hello, blank Word Document. You look lovely and perfect and untarnished.

But also empty and boring and way less fun than your future-novel!

So.

The only thing to do is to just. Start.

I took my own advice at 8pm this evening. I’d been having a busy day. Couldn’t start at midnight because I was too tired, and I had an exam in the afternoon – my last exam for my undergraduate degree, incidentally! Couldn’t start in the morning, as I was frantically cramming an entire year’s worth of notes into my mushy brain. Couldn’t start in the afternoon – examming away. And so, 20 hours into November… I finally settled in at my laptop with a cup of Earl Grey tea and a bowl of chocolate icecream, and started.

Because I’m feeling nice, I’ll share my first sentence with you lot! πŸ˜‰

Being summoned to the Dean’s office never boded well for anyone.

*nods* Uh huh. A bit more substantial than my first sentence for last year’s NaNo, which was simply “Pain.” Deep and depressing, I know! πŸ˜€

At this moment in time, I really only have the vaguest shape of a plot. I have characters, and a setting, which is always great. I’m definitely planning on writing a separate blog post to go into the specifics of my novel, when things have become a bit clearer to me, so watch this space if you’re curious.

This post, however, is for all you Wrimos who are kicking off for the month. Maybe you’re flying at your laptop, mashing at the keyboard with your enthusiasm to get it all out. Perhaps you’re being a lot more composed about it – at least on the outside! – and have stacked up a healthy word count already. Well, if you felt even a little bit nervous, like me, just know you’re not alone! And you can totally use all of these crazy emotions to dive right into your novel.

Squeeeee. I really, truly love November πŸ˜€

Right. I’m gonna go have another 15 minute word sprint.

Word Count: 1,268 words
Write on!
Bri xx