The Hiding of Easter Eggs

I didn’t intentionally set out to put Easter Eggs in this book, but my subconsious conspired with my muse and before I knew it, there were so many, I had no choice but to embrace the idea and have some fun.

Elizabeth Bennett & Mr. Darcy

There are two specific Easter eggs for the witty, sharp-tongued heroine. First, the setting of the book opens in Elizabeth, NJ. An obvious tribute to my girl Lizzy. And the Deputy of Warwick, and my main character’s love interest, goes by the name of Bennett Williams. This is actually a combination of eggs, one for Elizabeth, and one for Mr. Darcy, whose first name is Fitzwilliam.

Mr. Wickham

The mecca of freedom of safety in the first book is a town called Warwick. An interesting little town with an interesting name. It is the first hint at my love and supreme affection for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, my all-time favorite book.

For those of you unfamiliar, or perhaps unaffected by this work, Warwick is a bit of a nod to Mr. Wickham, the less-than-scrupulous, would-be suitor who ends up absconding with Elizabeth Bennett’s youngest sister and causing a scandal that threatened any advantageous marriage for any of the Bennett sisters.


Elvis Has Left the Building

What’s a baker to do when the receive a plea for your skills and only three days to make it all happen? I had a very last-minute request for two and a half dozen cupcakes, which sounds like no big deal until I tell you that there were four cupcakes in each of eight different flavors! As a home baker, this was a bit of a undertaking.

The solution

Start with a simple cake base and modify just enough batter and frosting to make this work. I gathered the following and went to work:

  • A basic yellow-cake batter, enough for 2 and half dozen cupcakes
  • Whipping cream
  • Vanilla Buttercream
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Root beer and rum extracts
  • Toffee chips
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Bananas
  • Brown sugar
  • Butter
  • Cinnamon
  • Interesting toppers picked from whatever you’ve got in your pantry (popcorn, dried fruit, sprinkles, etc.)

 Cupcake #1: Root Beer Float

Just adding a healthy TBSP of root beer extract to the batter zipped up the flavor on this cupcake tremendously. I made a simple whipped cream frosting and topped it with  some strawberry-candied popcorn that I had in my pantry (you could also use a maraschino cherry, a piece of candy, whatever!), snipped a straw in half for decoration, and all done.

Cupcake #2: Toffee Delight
Same yellow cake batter with some cocoa powder mixed in, and boom, chocolate cake. You can add as much or as little as you want, but if you batter starts looking a little too thick, consider adding a couple of TBSP of milk, or even coffee. Then, using a bit of the whipping cream from Cupcake#1, made a simple ganache for filling and to spread on the top. Rollin chopped toffee bits, squirt of whipped cream frosting, a mini heath bar (or chocolate chips, whatever you’ve got) and a sprig of mint and you’re done.

Cupcake #3 – Coconut Dream
Stir in a bit of rum and coconut extract into that yellow cake along with a handful of flacked coconut. Toss a mixture of brown sugar, butter,  and cinnamon in a sauce pan. Cook over low heat until the sugar melts and you are left with this beauiful, caramel-colored syrup. Add in about a quarter cup of whipping cream, some rum or rum extract and sliced bananas and cook until the bananas take on some color and you have what looks like a banana caramel sauce. Then cool (resist the urge to eat it with a spoon!), and fill your cucpakes. A simple vanilla butter cream, sprinkle of cinnamon, and drizzle of the caramel with a banana chip and #3 is all done.

Cupcake #4 – The Elvis
Using the same yellow-to-chocolate conversion as in Cupcake #2, bake a chocolate cupcake, borrow some of the filling from Cupcake #3, and then make up a small batch of Peanut Butter Buttercream (regular buttercream with a couple TBSP of peanut butter and a bit more powdered sugar). Add a little chocolate drizzle and it’s done.

Two-Days but Only Two Hours

I find it easiest to do these kinds of baking projects over two days. Bake all the cakes and make all the fillings and frosting one day, and then assemble the next. This gives flavors time to mellow and keeps the time spent in the kitchen to just a couple of hours each day.

The Apocalypse, Herpes, & Easter Eggs

I’m not going to lie, plotting how to kill off 90% of the world’s population was, well, a strange, strange endeavor. A work friend and I debated for weeks what the most efficient way to do it might be (did I just write that?). We contemplated and researched nuclear war, massive flooding and other weather related events, and then two ideas began to emerge as the proverbial winners: solar flare that causes a massive geomagnetic storm and a virus.

Answer Leads to More Questions

So there it was, my world-ending event that would create the backdrop and new landscape for my cast of characters. But how would the virus work? How quickly would it kill? How would it be spread? These were the next set of questions I had to explore and then, thanks to the Google algorithm that starts showing you things based on your search history, an article popped up and caught my eye.

Hate to Tell You This, But Herpes Are Rampant

While this isn’t a subject I’d generally make small talk about, it was an interesting fact that came out of a rather strange week when virus-related articles dominated my news feeds.

According to the World Health Organization: 

“Nearly 2/3 of humans under 50 carry the

Type-1 Herpes virus.”

Two out of three humans under the age of 50 already carry this virus. That’s one virulent microbe and in the hands of a post-apocalyptic fiction writer, a convenient, if not staggering statistic. My devious writer brain thought, how can I use this to my advantage? And then it hit me. What if the geomagnetic storm, with it’s strange cosmic radiation, somehow mutated a virus already infecting a significant portion of the world’s population? And what if that mutation proved deadly?

Ending the World Got A Little Easier

The discovery of this idea certainly made my job of “ending the world” a bit easier. All I had to do was take advantage of a vulnerability in world populations that already existed, tweak up the percentage to make it really devastating, add some solar radiation, and voila, I had my killer virus.  And since there seems to be a portion of the population immune or simply resistant to said herpes virus in the real world, it just made sense to use that same idea in the book.

But…I didn’t exactly want to be know as the author who killed the world with Herpes.

Can you even imagine?

So I needed a new name. But what?

The Laying of Easter Eggs

I had already begun to amass a series of Easter Eggs to include in this book, each a nod to my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, so it just seemed a natural given to look there for inspiration. A quick Wikipedia scan and the JN-1675 virus was born. JN for Jane and 1617 for her birthday (December 16, 1775)


Garden Post…coming soon

Well, it too waaaaaaay longer than I originally anticipated to get the raised beds rebuilt, but we finally finished. Of course, now the yard where the old garden used to be is nothing short of a barren wasteland, but it’s a WIP, what can I say.

We managed to get plants in the ground and an arched trellis build. Oh, and bean teepee too! This year we’re hoping for a bumper crop of tomatoes (six plants, 3 different varieties), peppers (six different kinds!), eggplant, beans, acorn squash, zucchini, summer squash, spaghetti squash, honey dew, and cucumbers. Oh, and pumpkin and a ton of herbs including tarragon, cilantro, lemon balm, mint, oregano, rosemary, lavender, dill, and thyme.

Next on our to do list? A fire pit!

Thursday Workday Cupcakes

Every so often I get a chance to do a little baking to treat the folks at work. It’s amazing how much something as simple as a cupcake can lift someone’s mood. So glad I got a chance to sweeten a few people’s day. 

Two flavors in the box this time:

Chocolate Orange – chocolate orange cake with chocolate fudge filling, orange buttercream and a chocolate drizzle.

Raspberry Lemonade: a vanilla cake with a lemon glaze, lemon cheesecake filling, raspberry buttercream, and a fresh raspberry and mint leaf garnish.