FoodSanity – #BettyCrocker #RedVelvet #cake mix with icing #review. #COVIDbaking

Recently I saw a Betty Crocker Red Velvet cupcake mix selling on Amazon (couldn’t find at supermarket though) which came with icing, all in one box. I thought I would give this a try since it sounded so convenient.

It surprised me that the box made less cake than the usual box mixes. Instead of 24 cupcakes, you get 12. There are two bags of icing in the box for frosting. To make the cake mix taste better, I made some adjustments – 1) added one more egg, 2) used unsalted butter versus oil, 3) used milk versus water and 4) added a teaspoon of vanilla.

With the cake mix I made 6 Elmo cupcakes (used gel coloring to dye one bag of icing red) and 3 fancy tiered adult cakes. I lost some icing because of the piping process and would have liked more icing. I only took a picture of 4 Elmo cupcakes because 2 of them didn’t turn out as nice. Since I made this around Easter, I added m & m chocolate eggs and fruit to decorate the adult cakes. I think the cakes turned out well and made great Instagram pics!

Food score:

Sight (20/20): A little frosting and color makes all cakes pretty!

Availability (10/20): You can only order from Amazon, I couldn’t find this set at my supermarket. It was also hard to find the red velvet Betty Crocker mix or the cream cheese frosting in the supermarket as well, though there are other brands available. The common flavors of vanilla or chocolate cake mix and frosting are easier to find.

Smell (20/20): Smells like cake while baking!

Taste (18/20): The cake itself wasn’t very sweet, but the icing was, so the flavors balance. This is cake mix so it’s not going to be as good as the cakes from fancy pastry stores!

Touch (20/20): The cakes were springy when done, baked perfectly! Icing was sticky, which is normal.

Overall score: 88/100

Would I order again? Yes! Recently I have been making smaller batches when baking since I can’t share with office folks because of COVID. Making an equivalent of 24 cupcakes would have been a lot, while 12 was just enough to share with a few other people.

Price point note – this box was around $4 Cdn for 12 cupcakes and frosting, or about $0.33/cupcake. For normal size box and frosting, it would have cost around $3.50 for red velvet cake mix, $3.50 for frosting or about $0.29/cupcake for 24 cupcakes. The normal box is cheaper overall, but for some reason it is difficult to find the red velvet box mix and cream cheese frosting in Canada. I really miss crossing the border to visit the US to buy things at their grocery stores!

Making #3d #bookcovers for #free! How to with link…#indie #publishing #writinglife #selfpublishing #marketing

On some sites I’ve seen 3d covers of books and wondered how people did it. Well, I know I can hire someone or buy software. But being a frugal person I wasn’t sure if it was worth the money so I never tried to do this. Fast forward a few years later and I’m talking to a book marketing person who is asking me about 3d covers.

Doing a Google search I found a website which lets you render a 3d cover for free! Of course it’s not the best quality (the graphic is small in size) and for a small fee you can pay to download the better version.

You will need 3 images in hand before you start: 1) Front cover, 2) spine only and 3) back cover. You can use any graphic program to crop your print book image file into pieces and just save as separate files.

For those who want to test out 3d covers, visit Boxshot which offers a free online program for use as well as better paid options: https://boxshot.com/3d-pack/3d-book/

On this website after uploading the 3 images of your book (front, spine, back), you can move the book around until you find an angle you like and then save the 3d image.

I did a test run for the Belief cover with the free option and it looks spiffy!

$30 gift card #giveaway by #ArtsyRaven #podcast guest #MayaSvevak, #writing, #writinglife, #publishing

The second episode of The Artsy Raven podcast features Maya Svevak, a scientist, lawyer, activist and author of Svevi Avatar: Persecution of Constantina. She shares with us what inspired her to create a fantasy world in her series of books which take place in an alternate timeline where European colonization didn’t happen. Her world explores the 7 core ecosocial (ecological + social) issues of our time which include issues related to: indigenous peoples, environment, identity, gender violence, capitalism, health, and culture. She also shares writing tips, how she published her books and the collaborative relationship she has with her team of artists.

Link to listen to the podcast on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/5Kgj96vRR9B6kczMhgjtkQ

Link to listen on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcntlRlmdW2nzFZnzq2dA_Q

Her book is launching March 20, 2021 and to celebrate, she is offering The Artsy Raven listeners a chance to win a $30USD Amazon gift card to use to buy her book.

Click here to enter the free giveaway between March 20-25, 2021: https://kingsumo.com/g/nsnpof/maya-svevak-amazon-gift-card-giveaway

March 19 – #WriteRice session with #VincentTernida coming up: What is the difference between #shortstories, #novels and #poetry? #writinglife #ricepapermagazine #acww #canlit

Write-Rice is an Asian Writers support group which gathers once a month. It’s an informal session in which a host leads a conversation aimed to improve the craft of writing. It’s also a place for people to share things they have experienced in their writing careers and to help each other do better as writers. While it’s aimed at Asian writers, it is an inclusive group and everyone is welcomed to join in!

On March 19, Vincent Ternida will be leading the discussion on what is the difference between short stories, novels and poetry. Some writers can create all of these forms of writing and it’s truly a gift to be able to do so! Vincent made the short list for the CBC Fiction prize before and he is an excellent writer. He will be sharing a lot of knowledge and it’s also a chance to interrogate, er, ask him questions!

This session is free and will require Zoom registration, visit the main website for details: https://ricepapermagazine.ca/writerice/

Live on #Spotify, Ep 1 of the #ArtsyRaven! #ChrisGorman, #fantasy #writer, shares his #writing tips and reads from Dawn of Magic!

The first episode of The Artsy Raven podcast is live! It’s available on Spotify and YouTube at the moment. Anchor will be sending out the podcast to other channels as well, but it’s still early so the computers are all talking to each other and negotiating, I presume. Bonus content about the secrets of success from the guests for each episode is available exclusively on Patreon.

We had a tiny party with myself, my husband and my little one because of COVID and we didn’t feel comfortable asking people over to our tiny apartment. The cake was baked by Ginny who is fighting on Food Network’s Great Chocolate Showdown and it is a chocolate cake. She said all sorts of fancy words like “caramel something” and “ganache something,” I will have to ask her for exact terms before I post about the specifics of the cake! But it was yummy, that’s the important part!

Chris Gorman, the first guest on The Artsy Raven, has been recording the Words with Writers podcast for a while now and he was the most prepared guest. I had sent him questions and he actually wrote out almost every word he was going to say and even practiced reading the entire transcript to note his speaking time! Of course when we actually did the recording, we interjected impromptu things and I had to cut him off from answering three questions or else we would go overtime.

It’s a bit frightening how fast the podcast went up after the files were ready for uploading. With the click of a button, it was live on Spotify/YouTube and I could see it in the search engines when I look for it. Editing the podcast took a few hours in comparison and I hope in the future I can produce these episodes faster as I become more experienced. At the moment I’ve booked a lot of “local” guests and the challenge in the future is asking “strangers” to come onto the show. I feel I need to have a few more episodes up before approaching big potatoes to come onto the show.

Forward and onwards!

Let’s have a happy Friday and avoid digital violence in the imperial palace! #asian #chinese #gaming

In the historical imperial palace game I play there are dual competitions once in a while. As a concubine you build up a team of confidants who are princes, eunuchs, maids, friends and foreign diplomats. Over time you gather potions and collect items to increase their tactics, glamour, wisdom and vigour.

When the duals open, for a week you slaughter other people’s teams by beating the butterflies out of them. Yes, you read right, butterflies instead of blood because this is a civilized girly palace game after all! There are random battles and you can choose to challenge players. To win, some players challenge the same person over and over again until they are negative in scoring.

I died quite quickly since opposition had better stats! You can see me beat some butterflies out of her in this picture…

On the server I am playing on, the top player or winner believes that using any strategy to win is fair, so during duals week, they pretty much kill everyone since they have such a strong team. The winner runs a “palace” (to be a member you must convert your name to include a swastika Buddhist symbol and listen to the winner who is the “Master”) and they send orders to other girls to go after certain players to ensure only their palace members will make the top ten. There is one particular player the winner will send orders to be destroyed every time. The person they bullied went onto the chat board and said quite a few horrible things such as the winner’s mom being a street prostitute and hoping that the winner gets COVID.

While a lot of us were sympathetic originally to the person being bullied, we then felt lines were being crossed on both sides. The winner shouldn’t be bullying others so much but the game rules allow this and the person being bullied shouldn’t be saying such horrible things. After a few days of endless chat messages, a lot of us just gave up being peacekeepers and ignored the drama.

Being an online game, we don’t know each other’s true identities and it’s just ok to walk away sometimes because not all fights are worth fighting! And so, once a month, drama fills the game…

Belief anthology coming soon! #Ricepapermagazine Series Volume 3 – sneak peek into design of book interior!

Saying I’m going to “drop a book” soon doesn’t seem as exciting as saying I’m going to “drop an album!” There’s no glitzy premieres or celebrities involved in this, although the most famous writer in this book is Joy Kogawa, who is a Member of the Order of Canada and has been given the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government. Jim Wong-Chu has a piece in this as well, the only Asian Canadian I personally knew who has a google doodle.

Belief contains fiction, poetry and non-fiction essays bounded to the theme of “belief,” a notion personal to each individual sharing a piece of themselves in their works. Each author shares a conviction of truth shaping the reality of life in the Asian diaspora.

It’s taken us many months to get here and I am grateful for the team I worked with to make this book happen: Allan Cho, Dawn Chow, Silvia Leung, Sophie Munk and Katya Roxas.

For the interior we have birds on a wire to match the front (cover reveal coming soon as soon as I’m allowed to share)! Below are a few pages for a sneak peak into the design of the book interior.

Mom, I’m busy with SMOL Dark Helix Press Reading Panels this weekend but I will still take you grocery shopping

My mother doesn’t believe me when I say I’m working and hustling on the weekend, so I don’t tell her about my creative life anymore. But I know she secretly checks my social media, so she’ll see my posts!

On Sunday, March 7 there are two panels happening, at 5pm a “Dark Fantasy and Sci-Fi” panel and 6pm an “Unendorsed Trump Inspired Tales” panel. When we did book launches in person for Futuristic Canada and Trump: Utopia or Dystopia we couldn’t gather all the authors, so I’m very excited to hear some of them read for the first time! Details for free registration here: http://www.darkhelixpress.com/events/

Am trying really hard to build an email list for Dark Helix Press to connect with people, so I’m giving away a set of books and an Amazon gift card here: http://www.darkhelixpress.com/giveaways/

Then I realized that I should separate JF Garrard from the Dark Helix Press brand and I have no email list. For myself, I won’t sign up for anything unless there is good content so I will work hard on making worthwhile content to share. Via the “Artsy Fartsy Raven Club” every month I’ll be sharing free book links, event listings, video/podcast links and one awesome artsy thing!

Be the first member of The Artsy Fartsy Raven Club now!

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Indoor COVID19 wailing to “Niji” with L’arc-En-Ciel

The perfect song for wailing indoors while full of COVID19 melancholy is “Niji” (虹, “Rainbow”) by L’arc-En-Ciel. It’s the opening theme of the Rurouni Kenshin movie Requiem for the Ishin Patriots, which has a storyline about samurai trying to start a revolution to overthrow the Meiji government. If you haven’t checked out the Rurouni Kenshin samurai anime and movies, now is a good time!

The main character, “Hitokiri Battōsai”, Himura Kenshin is a former assassin trying to make amends for his sins while fighting for love and peace. In the anime, the seiyuu (voice actor) of Kenshin is Mayo Suzukaze and she is amazing. In the movies Takeru Satoh is Kenshin and he is awesome in all the action sequences. Admittedly I would have loved a younger Masaharu Fukuyama to be the main character, but he does play Hiko Seijūrō XIII, Kenshin’s swordsmanship instructor in the movies. Rurouni Kenshin an anime classic and one I would gladly watch multiple times. The OST soundtracks are great as well! Some of the instrumental background music is full of tension, great for those writing fiction.

The song “Niji” starts off quietly with keyboards, electric guitar, drums and then main singer hyde launches into “TOKI WA KANADETE OMOI WA AFURERU” as if he is pleading with the heavens to save someone. Enjoy the youtube karaoke video below and know I am wailing with you! At home…where no one can see…with my Tzumi Pop Solo Gen 2 light up microphone!

Ricepaper Interview with Moulann and Mr. Will Wong

I recently represented Ricepaper Magazine to interview the Cantonese and Mandarin talents of Kruger Products’ (manufacturer Cashmere toilet paper and Sponge Towels) Unapologetically Human ad campaign, featuring real people dealing with real messes – spills, tears, blood, runny noses, messy crafts, and more. The campaign featured songs in English, French, Hindi/Urdu, Mandarin and Cantonese. Really cool that a company created a diverse ad campaign! The situations captured in the videos are touching as well, it’s worth checking out the beautiful imagery.

The Cantonese soundtrack is sung by Mr. Will Wong and the Mandarin song by Moulann.

Click here for full interview.

Youtube videos of the songs below, enjoy!