PhD application no. 1 is in, people. I can finally stop feeling guilty whenever I bake/chill/generally slouch around the penthouse (*cough: currently icy, can-see-your-breath freezing apartment). I’m not a natural procrastinator, but I like fast results from things, so that arduous slug through long lists of personal details…bleugh.
Sometimes the endless fight to get a toe in the door gets on top of you. I have so many friends in similar situations, and news like the recent bombshell that 1 in 10 museum jobs have been cut across the country does not exactly cheer you on. Often, you wonder why you’re still bothering.
Now, here’s my little anecdote for the week. I had a client the other week, a banker, with the standard job in central London and a six-figure salary. Now I often have clients in these high-flying jobs who love their work, but this lady was not one. It was clear she hated her job, and had always wanted to open a restaurant, but couldn’t get up the courage to leave her secure job. I felt unbelievably sorry for her. I’d been feeling pretty poo about my plodding life that morning, but when she came out with a sad ‘You should always do what you love, always follow your dream.’ in a somehow very genuine, non-corny way, it was like a splash of water to the face that I, and everyone out there battling with endless volunteer work and unpaid excavations, was doing the right thing. And a life affirmation bell rung out!! I do hope she gets up the courage to open her restaurant too…
So while I still have other applications to get done and funding to apply for (more important than the original applications really), today I threw my cares to the wind and decided to have a bit of a bake/craft day! Because if you can’t do what makes you happy sometimes, what’s the point?
I love poking through the cupboard to see what odds and ends of uber specific ingredients I have left and seeing what I can do with them. Stem ginger, dried figs and glacé cherries, I am looking at you! This afternoon, I thought I’d use up the cherries, and found a lovely looking chocolate & cherry fairy cake recipe from Nigella: http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/chocolate-cherry-cupcakes-144, so thought I’d give that a go.
The mix involved melting dark chocolate and mixing it with the butter, after which the process was very much your basic sponge with the addition of 300g of jam. Nigella quite snobbishly tells us she uses particularly elegant Morello Cherry preserve, and if we DARED to use a less elegant jam, to decrease the amount of sugar accordingly. Now, I love Nigella’s cooking (especially, I might add, because she isn’t stick thin but is a nice sensible size), but given the economic climes, that jam I just happened to have stuffed in the back of the cupboard already is a-coming out, no new purchase thank you very much.
Anyway, a chocolate and cream icing topped with a glacé cherry finished it off. As scrummy as they looked, these were not Nigella’s best. The mix sunk in the middle (which MAY have been my fault), they stuck to the silicon cake tin (which CAN’T have been my fault the amount of butter I put on the damn thing), they had a tendency to fall apart (I blame the jam), and when I ate them, they were so heavy! Only fruit cake in deepest darkest winter can be forgiven for heaviness, although they did improve the next day, I will admit (staleness is sometimes a virtue…).
So poor show Nigella….The British bake-off contestant inside me noted that the mixture could have done with an extra layer of texture, so I would recommend chopping up the glacés next time and adding them to the mix, as well as replacing melted choc with good all-purpose dark cocoa. I might add, my fiancee, upon whom all my bakes are ‘tested on’ (*cough, gobbled down by), thought a big layer of the icing would have covered all multitude of sins….
The day was also spent on the first of many Christmas craft projects. Natural decorations with home-made touches are affordable but also make Christmas less cold and over-elegant, more warm and family orientated in my opinion. So I duly got home from work one day and walked home through the park to collect branches and pine cones. To my horror, I found not one pine cone. Is this a curse of the south?! If nothing else, that means I will have to move back to Manchester one day… I ended up resorting to buying a ton on ebay, to my eternal shame. At least I found the sticks though! My work shoes and trousers were pretty dirty from getting stuck in the mud trying to reach a potential source of pine cones and petting a gorgeous boisterous puppy though. It seems the child in me has never learnt of the concept of play clothes.
These have subsequently been sprayed gold. The pine cones will end up on a plate surrounding candles, accompanied by holly (of which thankfully there is no lack, otherwise I might as well be living in palm-tree climes). The branches will be stacked like dried flowers in a glass vase, with gold beading (snitched from my childhood Christmas tree), fairy lights and perhaps little baubles. And voila! An easy to achieve Christmas atmosphere right from the park.
Now, I probably should get on with those funding applications….