On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

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13 Years On

Anni2It was our 13th Wedding Anniversary mid March. I feel very lucky. 13 years with the best man in the whole wide world. My love for this man has not diminished with the passing of time, only deepened.  Ok, enough of the mushy stuff. It’s enough to say it was our wedding anniversary.

There was no way I was passing up an opportunity to made a cake for an important occasion. Mr Fussy (when badgered) suggested a Jaffa (flavoured) cake. Now for those in New Zealand, we know what Jaffa is. It’s actually a hard coated candy with chocolate in the middle, and an orange flavoured coating. They’re great, and a bit of a NZ icon, and were great for throwing in the movie theatre. Not that I ever did that. Why waste a perfectly good lolly?

Our cake was half of David’s cake. Though I flavoured the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean cake with Orange extract, and I also flavoured the ganache with Orange flavouring (Robert’s Confectionary). And the buttercream also had orange extract. I did all I could to make sure the orange wouldn’t be drowned out by the rich chocolate cake and ganache.

TrimmedI’ve run out of patience having to trim the sides of all my cakes to make sure I’ve got sufficient space to ganache. I ordered more acrylic circles with an extra 2mm (all around) increase. But for this cake I had to trim the sides. I admit it looks tidy when it’s trimmed, but what a waste of time, and cake, albeit just a bit of cake is wasted.

For whatever reason, I ended up with a slight bulge in the ganache at the base. I did the usual poke a pin in it and flattened the bulge, but I decided it wasn’t worth my time to cover in fondant and risk more bulges. Plus it was only a 6″ cake, and smaller cakes are more prone to pleats as you ease the fondant over the sides. A 4″ high cake that’s 6″ in diameter takes a bit more attention than say a 4″ high cake that’s 8″.

The cake was only for us so I was completely at ease with having a naked cake for us. Plus naked ganached cakes have their own beauty. And really, other than the bulge which I dealt with, the ganache is pretty tidy. All but the top, can you see? I’ve got a tiny little trench just in from the rim of the cake. Again I felt there would be more work in filling the tiny dip than the dip itself bothered me.

The Cake Lace is made from Claire Bowman’s mix. I made this lace almost 12 months ago. I’ve had it stored as instructed and it was still as pliable as it was when I made it. That stuff is the best. I never ate it when I first made it. I had no desire to do so then or for this cake. Once the cake was cut, the lace itself was removed. Though I did take the left over cake into work and left the lace on that section of the cake. I’m not sure anyone ate it. I did suggest they treat it more as decoration than “food”.

So there we are. The cake had a delicate orange flavour to it. Nothing overpowering or strong, just enough to know it was there. Someone at work thought it tasted like lemon. Go figure.

All the petalsAs for the flower, well it’s hard to believe this was a magnolia cutter. It seems more like some star burst flower than a magnolia. I think I cupped the petals too much. I used the veiner as the guide and made formers from tin foil which I laid over the veiner. Never mind, it still worked out fine, even though it’s not the flower it was meant to be. I have a photo of what the petal looks like with and without petal dust. Yes it makes a difference. At some point I will embrace the whole petal dusting, but I think I’m a ways off from that yet. I also took some of the petals away, I decided with all the petals that I made the flower itself was bigger than the cake! It’s all about proportion, well that’s a consideration anyway.

Petal dustAfter having had some of David’s cake the day before, then a slice of our Anniversary cake, we were all caked out. The cake itself was very rich. I know this seems odd to say, but without the fondant, the cake was harder to eat. The fondant seems to combat some of the richness by the sweetness. I certainly found one slice to be more than enough. And I know my work mates were happy we couldn’t face another slice.Anni1



Mother’s Day – 2014

I think I’m mellowing. Mr Fussy may disagree. But I’m not all up in arms over the bits that didn’t go my way with the cake I made for Mother’s day.

We’ll get to that.

Clair Bowman's Cake Lace. Patchwork cutters for the cake board.

Clair Bowman’s Cake Lace. Patchwork cutters for the cake board.

More important, here in New Zealand it’s Mother’s Day. I had 3 mothers in the house, Mum, my sister and my Mother-in-law. And I didn’t forget about my younger sister too. I even make a special cookie just for her. She was in my mind even though she lives in Wellington and couldn’t be here for afternoon tea.

So happy Mother’s Day to all the Mums celebrating their special day today.

The "sweets" all laid out. Just waiting for those savoury items to make afternoon tea complete.

The “sweets” all laid out. Just waiting for those savoury items to make afternoon tea complete.

And for those of us not Mums, whether it be by choice or not, hope you’ve had a great day too!

Back to the cake. I made it the other week and froze it. I made it from a box mix (!) where I added sour cream to it. There’s a couple of reasons I chose to make the cake with a box mix. I had box mixes to use 😉 I wanted to freeze the cakes and I knew I would have the cake out for 3-4 days before it was going to be eaten. Those box mixes with sour cream added really last the distance, and they still taste really good.

All egg white Lemon Emulsion cake. Limoncello SMBC.

All egg white Lemon Emulsion cake. Limoncello SMBC.

This time I made the cake with all egg whites. This really does make a big difference in getting a very white cake. It was a lovely light cake and was still moist and flavoursome. And surprisingly, the syrup in the Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC) which had separated when I thawed it and re-whipped it fully incorporated and didn’t separate as the cake sat. I’ve thought the separation of the syrup is what causes my perfectly baked cakes to end up a bit soggy in the past. So now I’m a little confused, because that didn’t happen, yet it happened for my ANZAC cake, and this was the very same SMBC, the only difference is this was frozen AND I added Limoncello (which you couldn’t taste), and as I say the syrup separated as it thawed and I began to remix it. I’m confused.

I cut just a little too much of the cake lace to test spraying water. Now I had to try and disguise the gap.

I cut just a little too much of the cake lace to test spraying water. Now I had to try and disguise the gap.

I had made LMF fondant during the week. It was simple to make and easy and I thought all was going well until I rolled it out and lay it over the cake. It immediately tore at the edge. And this cake is not a double-barrel cake (twice the height of a normal cake) where that sort of thing is almost expected. So Friday night I had to get the trust Bakels fondant out, which is white, and knead a little of the LMF into it, to try and get a bit of a lavender colour, and use this. It really didn’t turn out very lavender in the light of day so I knew I would have to air brush the colour.

My original plan was to have the fondant lavender so I could just air brush pearl over it and the cake lace. In the end because the cake ended up 4” I used different cake lace than I had intended. The piece I wanted to use I ended up only having one strip off and I needed almost 2 strips to go around the cake. So I used the larger piece of cake lace. And believe it or not, these piece of cake lace are the very same I made when I blogged about Clair Bowman’s Cake Lace some 3 months ago! And it was still so supple.

I thought the cake lace might seem odd to eat but I wasn't even aware of it.

I thought the cake lace might seem odd to eat but I wasn’t even aware of it. And the air bubbles I’ve been unhappy with weren’t even something I noticed when looking at the cake.

Anyway, cake lace is applied to the cake by using a moistened brush and brushing the side of the cake. Well that was going to be problematic given the colour of the cake came from being airbrushed. So I sat there and wondered. First I cut a bit off one of the strips (as you’ll see, I shouldn’t have cut quite so much!) and used my spray bottle to see how it would hold up with I sprayed the cake lace instead of the cake. All looked good. It wasn’t dissolving. My problem was that I had a very supple piece of cake lace and with it wet how was I really going to line it up and press it against the cake? Back to the drawing board. What I ended up doing was spraying the cake. First I sprayed the cake face on and ended up wetting it too much. That too much wetness ended up as droplets on the cake. And you guessed it. I put my big fat fingers in it smudging it. Boo.

Instead I sprayed the cake side on and sprayed as I turned the cake (on a turn table). That seemed to work well enough. Now it was just the trick of still lining the cake lace up against the bottom of the cake and sort of folding it up onto the sides. It mostly went on without a hitch. I still had to wait and make sure that I hadn’t over-sprayed the cake and the cake lace was going to dissolve. Thankfully that didn’t happen, although a very small bit of it almost did.

Cookies I decorated this morning with ribbon roses and other embellishments. Bottom right is the special cookie I decorated for my sister who is in Wellington. This one had a bit more work with extra piping.

Cookies I decorated this morning with ribbon roses and other embellishments. Bottom right is the special cookie I decorated for my sister who is in Wellington. This one had a bit more work with extra piping.

Over ANZAC weekend I made a number of roses. I only had pink and white gumpaste with me and I wanted lavender roses. You’d have thought that I’d have added some blue or violet to it and just made it lavender. But no, not me. I wasn’t thinking that at the time. I’ve spent days dusting different roses trying to make pink lavender and never liking the end result. In a way I was relieved after putting the cake onto the cake board to realise that it needed nothing more, and in fact adding more would make it too busy. That old saying less is more rang true in this scenario. So although I had dusted all the roses I didn’t use any at all. Nor did I use any of the other little fondant/gumpaste buds I made (more for making Vintage styled cupcakes). And I almost didn’t use any of the ribbon roses I made, or the other little roses with added silver cachous, but I managed to work those into some cookies in the end.

Last weekend I had taken some cookies out of the freezer to decorate. What I didn’t consider is that as the cookies sat defrosting (still wrapped) they would stick to the wrapping. So when I eventually got around to unwrapping the cookies the royal icing had stuck and obviously pulled away as I removed the wrapping. Undeterred I carried on. Even if they couldn’t be salvaged it was still a good experience (and lesson!) to try something new. I made an Iris for Mum, bunch of Lavender for my MIL and Tulips for Natalie. I didn’t know what flower she might like but the Tulips were fairly simple in construction, even though I ended up making the main one look like a pineapple top.

Flower cookies I made for the 3 Mums in attendance.

Flower cookies I made for the 3 Mums in attendance.

Last night I decided that I’d pull out some more undecorated cookies and flood them using the new pastry bags that had arrived during the week (bought off eBay, and delivered free – takes an age but they eventually arrived). Using the bags is called tipless piping. There’s been a huge interest on certain Facebook pages and when the discussion first began I ordered the bags too, though I had to order from a different seller because I had to find someone who would ship to NZ. I had decided that if I didn’t like the feel, or the bags didn’t cut it, then I would still use them instead of making a capsule for the royal icing. And I can tell you that they are so much easier to prepare than gladwrap. So much calendar to dispose of, and yes, they do work. My lettering wasn’t quite as tubular as others say they get, but I think part of that is my royal icing was quite stiff so it wouldn’t settle as such, but I was trying to make sure that what I piped stayed put. I had tried last week with a normal piping tip and the black spread too much and I didn’t like the end result. I still have a bit to learn about the right consistency for piping letters.

Lastly I made the same chocolate cake I’ve made before using Rosie’s (of Sweetapolita) recipe, and I used a 500gm container for Maraschino cherries reserving 12 cheeries for the top and using the rest to make a cherry filling. Unfortunately I was so busy trying to get every last bit of cornflour/cherry juice mix from the jug that I forgot to stir what had already been poured into the pot and some of it congealed. It took a while to pick those bits out, and I didn’t get quite all of it.

Maraschino Cheeries are a favourite of Mums so I wanted to make something using them for Mother's Day.

Maraschino Cherries are a favourite of Mums so I wanted to make something using them for Mother’s Day.

I used the left over ganache (it was also left over from Jasmine and Sam’s engagement cake, used on the Mother’s Day cake, and then the remainder had a good squeeze of light corn syrup added to ensure it didn’t set hard) and whipped it up so that I could use it to pipe a dam to hold the cherry filling, and also pipe a swirl on top to secure the cherry.

I did serve some savoury items. I cheated and bought a focaccia bread that needed to be finished off in the oven, and made my usual cheesy puff mini muffins (which stuck to the tin – despite it being non-stick and being sprayed with oil).

So there we have it. Overall I think it all turned out very nicely. Lots learnt but I’m no longer up tight when it doesn’t turn out perfectly. My family knows that I put my heart and soul into what I do and sometimes no matter how much planning and time you have, you can still be thrown a few curve balls. Practice means I’ll be better equipped to deal with those. Then when I know better and I don’t end up rescuing something, then I can be peeved off 🙂

I broke the "u" and tried to patch it up. No one noticed until I pointed it out. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut in future :)

I broke the “u” and tried to patch it up. No one noticed until I pointed it out. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut in future 🙂

This coming week I have a trip (for work) to Melbourne and I’m making the most of it by sticking around the weekend. I’m looking forward to spending some time catching up with Cate and Brett, and their new pup Zed, and maybe I’ll come back with a Kopykake tucked under my arm (and a few pairs of winter shoes!). I guess what I’m saying is there’ll be no baking in the upcoming week to post next weekend. I’m leaving during the day Tuesday. My MIL is house sitting for her SIL which leaves Mr Fussy at home alone with the cats. He’s very much looking forward to having the house to himself and enjoying a few days being a bachelor. It’s been a very long time since he’s been able to play that role with my MIL now living with us. I’m not sure what will be cooked in the kitchen this coming week, but it wont be anything you’d want to see pictures of 😀



Claire Bowman’s Cake Lace Product and Mats

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Claire Bowman Chantilly Lace Mat

Have you seen a cake decorated in sugar lace? Sugar lace is fairly new, but all the rage. It’s so very beautiful. There’s lots and lots of cakes I’ve seen that are so elegantly decorated with sugar lace.

Before Christmas I ordered some Sugarveil mix and a silicone doily designed silicone mat from Lindy. I still haven’t used the Sugarveil mix. From what I can gather Sugarveil was the first “lace” product on the market. People have been trying to work out what the ingredients and proportions are and there’s been varying degrees of success.

Different thicknesses of silicone

Demonstrating differences in silicone thickness and pliability.

I’d heard about Cake Lace from the reading some comments on the NZ Cake Decorators Facebook page. I’d looked at the wonderful mats and I almost put in an order. I hate the cost of shipping and that put me off.

Then new Claire Bowman mats were released just recently and I went in search again for the prices. This time I decided not to deny myself and ordered a starter kit and a couple of extra mats. I also put in an order for a couple of Dab mats that I’d spied.

This blog post is about my experience using the Cake Lace product by Claire Bowman.  I used the Cake Lace in Claire’s mats, the one mat I used for the homemade recipe and the new Dab mats that had recently arrived. I was so excited by this experiment.

Some of these photos, the ones were I’m using making the Cake Lace and filling the silicone mats were taken with my phone, the ones after the lace has been removed from the mats are with my dSLR.

Usually I post photos of a recipe I’m following, but there’s no need. Claire had a very thorough YouTube of making up her Cake Lace as well as how to use it with the silicone mats.

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After Part B, finally it’s getting some volume

What I found was  the amount of lace I was making was almost too small for the KitchenAid mixer, but this is the same mixer Claire demonstrated, using the same quantity of ingredients. I had to scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times because the whisk attachment wasn’t reaching it (I probably need to adjust the height/position of my attachments). Once I added part B things improved and the mix increased in volume making it much easier for the whisk attachment to do the job of whisking.

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Ready. Perhaps I should have waited for more bubbles.

The smell of the mix is really intense, a nice sweet aroma, but don’t let that fool you into dabbing your finger in the left over Part B that’s on your measuring spoon. Being the curious creature that I am I just had to have a little taste. It was so strong, and I’m not sure what it was meant to taste like, but I do NOT recommend a taste test. But if someone told me not to try I’d still do it 😉

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Just how much do you really need to apply to begin with? It wont take long to get to grips with that.

Using the mix on the mat is pretty simple. I had a bit of trouble trying to work out how much would be enough. I didn’t want to plop too much on the mat and end up having so much it was running off the sides. I didn’t want to waste any of the mix. I needed to add more than I thought but it was easier to figure out just how much once I got going.

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The excess scrapes off so easily with the spreader/knife from the starter kit. See the top photo.

As you’d expect with using delicate patterns, some of the mix doesn’t quite site neatly into the tiny grooves on the first pass. You need to go over some bits of the mat several times. It’s not difficult, you just have to keep an eye out and make sure the mix has filled the design fully.

Using the sweeping motion back and forward and sometimes up and down as Claire mentioned (a paddle sort of motion) was meant to help get any air bubbles out. I must admit this was the most disappointing part of the look of the finished lace for me. Perhaps I haven’t got the technique right, or maybe I should let the lace mix rest for a while, like you do with Royal Icing, to encourage the air bubbles to the top.

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Unwelcome air bubbles.

I was being a bit cautious with the mat, it’s very supple and I was worried somehow I’d end up tipping the lace out of the design, but I soon realised that I needn’t be quite so careful. Not to be reckless, but I didn’t have to be so precious about shifting the mat from the bench to the baking tray, or just shift it out of the way while I prepared another mat.

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Top two mats from Claire Bowman. Bottom 2 (left) Dab and the doily was the original mat I purchased. Unsure whose it is.

I put the first mat (the one with the 3 lanes of complementing design) in the oven while I worked on the other mats. I left it in the oven at 70 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. When the time was up I thought the mix still looked too glossy, but it had flattened in the mat, so the mix was no longer sitting flush with the mat, it had shrunk down. Does that make sense?

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This is what you expect to see when the lace is ready for removal.

I pulled at the edge of the mat but it didn’t look to me like the lace was separating so I put the mat aside and put the remaining mats into the oven.

When the 15 minutes was up the other mats looked more likely they were dry enough but I put the first mat back in the oven with the oven turned off, then about 5 minutes later I decided to return the 2nd sheet as well, just to be absolutely certain.

All up the first mat had been in the oven 15 minutes of active baking/drying and 15 minutes with the oven turned off. The second tray was 15 minutes of active baking/drying and 10 minutes with the oven turned off.

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It still looked a bit flimsy, like it wasn’t quite ready, but it was. I didn’t use the spreading tool on this first bit and ripped a little bit of it.

This time the first mat showed more promise that the lace would separate from the mat. I wasn’t completely sold on it and was a bit haphazard in my approach to extracting it. In fact I had the mat half way in the middle of the bench and was leaning over the bench to reach it and then tried to pull it away. I was not doing what Claire showed, I was not using the knife/spreader and not surprisingly, the lace tore. But then I realised it was actually good to go so I got serious about the task at hand removed the rest of it properly.

Use the knife to assist in extraction

The bit I tore by not following Claire’s instructions. Pay attention.

I was thrilled how supple the lace was.

The Dab mats were harder to get the lace from and I ended up tearing a tiny bit here and there, but it is easy to place and not tell it’s torn.

Dab lace

The bubbles are noticeable, well to me. These two are from the Dab mats.

The heart mat wasn’t difficult to extract from, but due to the design, there was one part that wouldn’t pull away from the mat as it was being bent back. Just that tiny little scroll, the photo from my phone shows the best.

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That little bit there will catch, watch for it. It’s easy to extract, but it wont come away cleanly with the main part of the design.

Now I have all this near perfect cake lace and I’m not sure what I’ll use it on. I was in awe of how flexible it was. I had heard it was, but most photos I’d seen were of cakes already adorned with the cake.

So here are quite a few photos to show just how bendable, flexible, pliable the cake lace is. I even got to draping it round and round my wrist and it never tore, it didn’t crack, it didn’t do anything but drape like it was a piece of fabric.

Very flexible

Wrapping the lace is a breeze.

Lots of movement

Flexible, supple, bendable.

Like a lacey sleeve

It really does look like lace, especially if you drape it over your arm like a sleeve.

I’ve stored the cake lace as directed by Claire. It’s been wrapped in both waxed and baking paper and stored in a box (which isn’t sealed). Yesterday I grabbed the doily one just to see if after almost two weeks (two weeks is on Monday/tomorrow) it had remained soft and supple.

Storing cake lace

Stored ready for when I dream up a cake to decorate with this product.

The verdict? Yes! I did find I had to peel it off the paper, I hadn’t expected that. I’m not sure why it sort of stuck to it, but it wasn’t difficult to remove. The doily feels and behaves every bit the same it did the day I made it.

So is there a downside? Yes. There are two:

  1. The cost
  2. The air bubbles

I don’t know what to say about the cost. The product has to come to NZ from the UK and then there are duties and taxes that have to be paid, so it’s not cheap to buy. It seems so unfair when it’s not the equivalent cost (with the exchange rate taken into account) for people to purchase in the UK. As it happened I bought mine directly from The Cake Decorating Company in the UK. At the time I hadn’t been aware that KiwiCakes was now stocking the product. I’ve done a few sums and even with the exchange rate (at the moment) and the cost of shipping, for me it is still more cost effective to buy from the UK. It’s a sad predicament because I far rather support NZ business, but when it comes down to it, I don’t do this as a business, I can’t write off any of the costs. If we were talking just a few dollars then it would be a no-brainer. I’d buy locally.

As for the second, the air bubbles, I’m not sure if it was my lack of experience/technique, if perhaps I should let the mixture rest for a while to see if the bubbles would just work themselves out, or whether it really doesn’t matter because unless you’re studying the lace you probably wouldn’t see them.

Cake Lace moulds

Beautiful, delicate lace.

I’m not sure how much I will get out of the rest of the Cake Lace mixture, but I love using it. Now I just have to dream up some cake or cupcakes that would be worth of decorating with this lovely product.


Something sweet for Valentine’s Day

all the cookiesSince Mr Fussy prefers cookies I made a batch of Lilaloa’s  End-all chocolate cookie recipe.

I made a bit of a boo-boo. Imagine that. Instead of ¾ of a teaspoon of baking powder, I put in 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder. I just grabbed the wrong two spoon measures.

I was puzzled when my cookies spread since the blog post was adamant the cookies wouldn’t. Obviously I’ll have to make them again since I botched this batch. For all that, the spread wasn’t more than I’ve seen with other recipes.

tiny bitesThe cookie dough is really soft. There is a warning the dough will be soft, and you’re encouraged to refrain from adding extra flour if you’re going to chill the dough. I finally did as instructed 😉

I did my usual and rolled it out between two sheets of waxed paper and put the 6mm sheets of rolled dough into the fridge. The dough would have been in the fridge for more than 2 hours when I grabbed the first sheet to cut out. Before I had finished cutting out the last of the dough the cookies at the edge of the sheet had begun to soften making it a little tricky to pick them up and place them on the baking tray. I also popped them back into the fridge before baking them.

Cake lace decorations

Cake lace and chocolate transfer hearts

For all that they taste good. I didn’t add the shortening, I used all butter. I didn’t want the cookies to be soft. Since they usually last a whole week or more I didn’t want to get a sense that they’d softened and perhaps not as fresh as they should be. The cookies aren’t hard or crunchy by any stretch of the imagination so I’m not sure how soft the shortening would make them, if added.

As for the royal icing, I used the last of my Wilton meringue powder and was short a few grams, I made the balance up with dried egg albumen. I really didn’t think it would make a big difference, after all, I’ve made a full batch with egg albumen. That turned out fine, but it had a slightly odd taste.

wet on wetAnyway, the reason I’m making a note of all this, the royal icing didn’t set. I’ve never had that happen before. I didn’t realise until I was picking up the cookies and accidentally nudged one and then saw that the icing was more like marshmallow.

I haven’t asked Mr Fussy how he’s managing to pack a cookie up to take to work. I imagine it’s a bit messy.

The decorations are mostly based on the YouTube Amber from SweetAmbs made.

I haven’t given up on trying filigree, but it’s fair to say I still suck at it. I can’t understand why the piping settles so thick, I’m using a number 1 tip. Must practice at every opportunity.

hearts everywhere

Using the cake lace silicone mat as an impression mat with a fondant decorated heart

While we don’t really do the whole Valentine’s thing, well that’s not entirely true, we love an excuse to go out for dinner, we don’t do gifts, we do exchange cards. I’ll be in Hamilton (I know, I’ve mentioned it before) so I’m still trying to figure out how to get my card to Mr Fussy so it’s not thrown at him as I leave tomorrow morning.

Hope everyone has a nice day, whatever Valentine’s means to you. Cookies are good any day of the week!