The Macaron Magician

Art and food. What an exquisite combination. When it comes to Fernandes Macarons, it is evident just from the elegant packaging that you are dealing with meringue magic. But who is the magician creating these mini masterpieces?

The visionary behind these French delicacies is Jason Savio Fernandes – a friend of mine who I was fortunate enough to spend a year with during my University adventures in Sheffield.

Described by a fellow writer as ‘one of the best macaron makers in the world‘, this audacious assertion has been thoroughly vindicated by the mouthwatering flavours of pistachio ganache and revivifying lemon cheesecake I have just experienced. The beautiful colours of sea-green and saffron immediately caught my attention and trust me, they are as delicious as they are delectable.

A gift that has been constructed by someone you know personally always has that special affinity attached to it. You know it’s been made with the utmost care and diligence – Jason celebrated my day of turning a year older by kindly sending me a selection of his top flavours and the intricacy behind every sweet offering is truly astounding.

There is no mass manufacturing when it comes to the Fernandes macaron with every delicate concoction and pungent aroma constructed by the fingertips of the man himself. The business continues to prosper with Fernandes Macarons now a regular exhibition at the Made in Shropshire event held every month in Shrewsbury’s town square.

Jason is able to provide bespoke orders for every occasion using his own unique inventions as well as flavours traditionally associated with ‘the new cupcake’ – pistachio, salted caramel, rosewater, chocolate amaretto, lemon cheesecake, lavender, apple, cinnamon and white chocolate are only the tip of the mixing bowl.

I am struggling to refrain myself from the temptation of devouring the remaining colourful confections that scream the pastel tones of spring. However, I see it only fair that I allow my better half the privilege of indulging in such delight with salted caramel, baileys and chocolate amaretto all within tantalising reach.

The heart and soul that a person pours into their particular art is always reflected in the completed puzzle. Jason’s education was built around the concept of design and the impressive portfolio of work he has compiled showcases his creative ability and profound level of knowledge that he has been able to implement into his dessert dream.

I can guarantee I won’t be waiting till I’m 29 before I put in my next order. Pure decadence and total luxury – the Fernandes Macaron is the perfect accompaniment to any afternoon tea.

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What A Wonderful World

What an exhilarating experience. Never before have I felt nerves like it. Sweat quivered down the back of my shirt and the pandemonium of butterflies that had settled in my stomach descended into a schism of trepidation.

An hour or so before I felt calm and poised, but as soon as discussion arose amongst the others on the ‘Tunnocks Caramel Bar’ table, my equanimity was devoid of any control.

My better half Emma did her best to reassure me that everything would come up roses in the end, but the thought of having to deliver a best man speech became excruciating. So excruciating that I lost my appetite to indulge in the elegant afternoon teas served to each couple.

This was totally out of character for me, but I felt physically sick to the core. In keeping with the biscuit theme of the wedding, my digestive system had completely malfunctioned. 

Every pivotal moment I had been involved in prior to this moment had flown by and much to my delight proceeded like clockwork – possibly thanks to the stunning pocket watch that Dan (the groom) had gifted me early in the morning. 

There was no wobble whilst I signed the register, no fumble as I passed the wedding rings to the fabulous couple and no tripping over in front of the captivated onlookers.

  

Up until my moment in the spotlight, the day as a whole had passed with flying colours. The Petwood in Woodhall Spa provided the perfect country venue for the occasion, full of character and grandeur. 

The sunshine decided to come out of early retirement, making the way for some spectacular imagery which was captured perfectly by the very talented Benjamin Murray. Expressions of joy were etched on the faces of many as the wine flowed alongside the devilish temptation to attack the many sweet offerings within easy reach.

Back to reality – the serving stands has been collected and my time was imminent. After the first two speeches had been read out and warmed the hearts of everyone in attendance, all eyes and expectation were on me. 

I could sense everyone was anticipating something a little different to what had gone before – something humorous, something to cause a sizeable impact on the funny bone. Dan’s sentimental and poetic speech was greeted with a well deserved applause and he then introduced me as I took centre stage.

The visible shaking of my hands was now evident to the whole assembly, approximately 75 people in total. Gathering my composure, my opening gambit about my fear of ‘pubic squeaking’ (written prior to the death of the legendary Ronnie Corbett) gave an insight into what was to come and thankfully was met with enough laughter to boost my confidence for the rest of the speech and inevitable one-liners.

Being susceptible to mumbling, I refrained from rushing through my words despite the inescapable tension running through my veins. It had gone far better than I could have imagined. 

I was humbled by the reaction of everyone. Many took the the time to compliment me on my disquisition with Becky’s (the bride) dad even retorting that he was relieved that he didn’t have to step up after me. 

As soon as I sat back down, my stomach had loosened up and the lemon posset that I had left was the perfect tonic to what had seemed like the five longest minutes of my life.

Just writing this now gives me goosebumps. It is an episode in my life that I will look back on with enormous satisfaction and pride. It really was a memorable day and I will forever be grateful that I was able to play a part in it. Being a best man truly is a special honour and I am blessed to be going through it all again in June. 

However, least I forget the day belonged to Dan and Becky – described by me as the perfect match for each other. I wish you both complete happiness together for the rest of your lives. It is days like Saturday that I think to myself – what a wonderful world.

 

That Friday Feeling

It has been a whirlwind last few months. I have really been on the edge of fatigue and having no extended break away from work since January has enervated my ability to stay focused in all aspects of my life.

Being away from shifts for the last three weeks and the realisation that I no longer have to work night shifts again is yet to sink in. An unexpected job offer came out of the blue and the opportunity to be able to work ‘normal’ working hours was gratefully accepted with aplomb.

In another writing episode, I may have described taking this opportunity with both hands. However, this would not be appropriate given I suffered a minor fracture to my wrist just over a fortnight ago, casting fears that my first footsteps in my new stage of employment may have to wait a little longer.

Luckily I was approved to make a start in my new role on Monday morning as was initially intended. I was under no illusions that it was going to be a difficult transition making the adjustment from shift work to grafting Monday to Friday, but I am gradually starting to adjust to what is a dramatic change of lifestyle.

Without doubt, the positive influence it will have on my health, work and life balance will be invaluable. For someone with my sporting pursuits, I found it extremely difficult trying to juggle my shifts and maintain high levels of energy, both physically and mentally.

The whole process of switching occupations seemed to gather pace at a frightening speed and now here I am less than 24 hours away from that coveted ‘Friday feeling’ – something I have never experienced before. I hope it lives up to expectation.

I tried to keep my exit as low key as possible as I am not one for big gatherings and being the centre of attention has never sat comfortably with me. 

Being an emergency call taker has enabled me to learn so much about myself as an individual and I am proud that I managed to stick at it for over four years. In what has become a difficult environment, we all continued to thrive (pun intended) and I even found time to make the odd cup tea once or twice a year.

Make no mistake, it is a difficult job and I will always have shining rays of respect for my colleagues knowing the situations, the dilemmas and the pressures they have to cope with on a daily basis. 

The pain in my fracture was soon humbled by the gift voucher and card inundated with good luck messages and sly insults that I received last Friday at my leaving gathering. 

Therefore, a leaving email was never going to be enough when it came to expressing my gratitude to those in the Force Control Room who I have shared many memorable, tiring and hysterical moments with.

I hope this piece can keep your spirits high as you hit the final approach of your last night shift before FOUR days off. Now that is a liberty I will miss.

 
Photo: Me and some of my fabulous work colleagues at my leaving do – I wonder if I will be as much of a ladies man in my new job……

Special acknowledgment to Kelly who did a superb job of organising my farewell and present.

Ache

Ache – another one of those despicable four-lettered words. Headache, stomach-ache and earache just to name a few. You hear what I’m saying? However, nothing compares to toothache. 

At the risk of millions of females throwing punches (as opposed to their underwear) at me, I think the discomfort I have suffered in the past four days is on a par with childbirth.

Put it this way, I certainly won’t be looking to make toothache number two. Initially I thought my pain had subsided, but now my gum has swelled in the style of an oversized jelly bean and I am having to take penicillin which is double the strength of a standard painkiller.

I have never had so many sleepless nights. I don’t know how I managed to do a twelve hour shift on Saturday. I keep telling myself that much lesser men would have taken the full set shift off. As it was I only missed the second day shift and first night before my inconspicuous return to the theatre of incident.

So here I am at my desk, my left cheek has expanded so much you would think I have rolls of tissue wrapped up and tucked away in the saliva sphere. My ears continue to ring as I approach my final hour before I drop into bed just after five am. You don’t envy me do you?

The infection in my white cog gets removed on Friday so in the meantime I will rely on the genius discovery of Alexander Fleming to inhibit the bacterial growth. For those interested in clever puns, the time of my appointment is not two-thirty.

Whilst I try my best to mark the pain, my better half is forwarding me photographs of the magical surroundings she is experiencing in Canada (see image below) as well as having breakfast at my favourite chain – Tim Hortons! 

Personally I think she could recommend a different remedy to alleviate the throbbing….

Having said that it does feel strange not having her around, but it gives me ample opportunity and time to leave the dishes, let the washing pile up and let our home turf grow a little bit.

Heartache and toothache all in one week. I have seen better days.

Absence

I am not one to spread negative news. All of my social network statuses aim to bring positivity, laughter or inspiration into the lives of others. This could be in the form of a pun, a new piece of writing I have constructed or sharing positive information raised by others on Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild.

On the contrary it has been a testing few weeks for myself where very little seems to have gone to plan. Losing my wallet wasn’t the best idea and the law of sod had to dictate that on this occasion there would be money inside. One hundred pound to be precise. Trust me, that is a rarity.

A persistent pain in the knee joint has limited by sporting participation drastically, although thankfully that now seems to be making a turn for the better. People have said it must be my joints creaking now that I am getting old. I can assure you though that I have been panicking, especially as I am now entering the peak of my sporting powers if you believe the experts.

To add further pain to proceedings, I have had to endure the agony of toothache tor the past 24 hours. I have been to the dental practice this morning so the throbbing is now beginning to ease and I can hopefully indulge in a chasm of unbroken sleep tonight.

Despite all of this, I am still trying to smile. Only it is just a little more sensitive than normal.

So my better half will be gone for three weeks tomorrow morning, galavanting off to a country that I have very fond memories of – Canada. She had this three week adventure in the pipeline long before we got together and will be going to see one of her great friends Darren who she met when living the high life, voyaging on cruise ships.

I have no doubt they will have many ‘to die for’ moments with the pinnacle surely being getting to experience the incredible backdrop of the Rockies. I am not jealous, honestly…

Fortunately I have had the pleasure of speaking to Darren over Skype a few times and I know him and Emma will have the time of their lives, whilst I frantically wait over the border for my order of Tim Hortons coffee. She knows if this promise is delivered then I won’t hold against her the fact that she is missing our ten month anniversary.

I have no doubt that without her presence, many people including one of my younger brothers will be expecting a house party every night. The harsh reality is that it is more likely to resemble a poor mans afternoon tea. Still you never quibble at a quality cup of coffee and a few custard creams.

So does absence makes the heart grow fonder? Only time will tell. A whole three weeks apart from my soulmate, but the excitement of twenty-one days to myself starting tomorrow. Shame the football season is drawing to a close, but the French Open begins next week. No prizes for guessing who I am rooting for.

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The 27 Club

So last month I reached another milestone, becoming an official member of the 27 club. Edging ever closer to 30, but where does the time actually go? I sit here now thinking I haven’t produced a blog since the end of March which is disappointing, but I am beginning to learn so much more about this discipline having just completed my fourth assignment in relation to a distant learning course I am undergoing in journalism.

My shift pattern has really caught up with me in the last few months and I am once again feeling lethargic, struggling to find the mental energy to muster up words on the page. I must learn that even just writing a few sentences or paragraphs a day will ensure that my creative mindset continues to progress. Who knows, those few words could be the beginning of a masterpiece.

Many high-profile musicians whose work I admire and still listen to this day are sadly are a part of the group known as the 27 club. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain are just a few of the stars who have achieved Nirvana in another life, despite having so much more to offer this world.

I was blessed to have the night shift off on my birthday thanks to the generosity of my work supervisor (thank you Paul). I expressed my gratitude through a few bottles of alcohol and the loss of my baking virginity which thankfully turned out better than eatable, if that is possible. I am not ashamed to admit that I actually enjoyed the experience, even though the kitchen was a total mess with sugar, flour and various mixes decorating the worktops. However, the end result of a scrumptious lemon drizzle cake and some battered but tasty crème egg brownies were not to be sniffed at.

The better half placed me under strict instruction to be up early in the morning on my big day as unlike me, she had not been given royal treatment and had to go to work and earn her pennies. Therefore, she wanted me to open my presents whilst she was still at home so that she could catch a glimpse of my reaction to what was inside the wrapping paper.

I have never been a morning person and was still three-quarters asleep when an array of cards and gifts were brought to me in bed. I am not going to go through them all one by one, but the one that stands out was a wonderful surprise from Emma. A writing portfolio which contained inside a booking confirmation of a break away at Loosehill House Hotel and Spa in the heart of the Peak District. My tiredness soon turned into exhilaration, knowing that I would be going back to one of my favourite places which I have blogged about before.

My Italian appetite was satisfied by a free evening meal at Gino’s in the Bailgate – another location that brings a smile to my face once I’ve seen the cobbled streets and the ladies of Lincoln in their high heels attempting to stumble gracefully down Steep Hill. Hopefully next year my better half might even treat me to a meal at Brown’s Pie Shop, still one of my favourite places to eat even though they don’t give you free food on your birthday.

I always feel very overwhelmed by the generosity my friends and family show, especially because I never made a big fuss over me celebrating turning another year older. Other notable gifts included: coffee syrups, socks for everyday of the week and various books to assist me with my course and breaking bad habits. I should also make note that my good friend Phil Lunn took the time out to visit his favourite shop and treat me to a couple of gifts that cannot make this cut due to their explicitness.

The Saturday of the week was reserved for an afternoon in town watching football before having a friendly (but competitive) pool competition whilst enjoying a few of my favourite alcoholic beverages – Crabbies Ginger Beer.

My next blog will go into detail about mine and Emma’s trip to the Peak District. I promise it will be with you sooner rather than later, much like my 28th birthday…

27 club

Photo Credit.

Breaking The Habit

Bad Habits. They are something I need to get out of, particularly when writing new pieces for my blog which I continue to churn out in a sporadic motion. I need to realise it is better just to scribble down a few sentences rather than leave the page empty because of a lack of ideas or invention. The words need to keep flowing, no matter what the situation.

However, it is far too easy to inflict culpability on what is essentially ‘writers’ blues.’ I seem to sometimes put writing off which seems ludicrous given I get a real buzz out of it. There is something very fulfilling from turning what is essentially a blank sheet of paper into something meaningful. It is a methodical process and takes time, but that is the beauty of the challenge. It has made me appreciate why artists love to draw and why musicians love to pen compositions. Being creative is a drug that brings incredible highs, but I need to start showing more fight to conquer the procrastination that prevents me from producing more pieces on a regular basis.

Things are gradually starting to take a turn for the better. I have this morning completed my second assignment for the London School of Journalism after finally signing on the dotted line and committing myself to a distant learning course at the London School of Journalism. My work is monitored by a tutor who has a very impressive CV in the world of journalism, so hopefully their knowledge and wisdom can help me make some tentative footsteps to where I want to be further down the line.

The fact that they have already praised my drive and enthusiasm along with my ‘excellent English skills’ is music to my ears. My four days off are mere moments away now and I must build on this encouraging start to my unexpected return to education. It’s time to make progress. To quote the philosophical genius of Albert Einstein — “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

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Photo Credit: http://examinedexistence.com