And I'm not trying to be deep and philosophical here - this is a baking blog; it's supposed to be light and fluffy and taken with a pinch of salt ; )
No, I'm talking about that jar of mayonnaise that you turn the whole fridge upside down to find, while it's right at eye level all the time (cunningly disguised as... a jar of mayonnaise!)
Or the sunglasses on your head. Or the child on your hip - and you might not believe it, but that one really did happen. Not to me, of course - my husband.
On this occasion it was the clock on the wall.
Well, ok - it wasn't quite that simple.
I had an idea of the colours I wanted for our Lovebirds / Valentines Cookies class, but couldn't find an image that pulled it all together for me. So, frustrated with the intangible inspiration, I muddied through the task, eventually getting the shades exactly as I wanted. Two days later I looked at the clock on our kitchen wall and realised: oh, hey - there it was - my inspiration. Right in front of me.
I can't think of any other description for these shades than "dirty". Which is perhaps appropriate (or very inappropriate??) for Valentines Cookies.
A "clean" colour is one that has very little or no black/grey in it. It is bright and pure.
A "dirty" colour had been muted/ "muddied" with grey or black.
To achieve this effect you just add a smidgeon of black (gel colour) to your already-coloured royal icing; mix it in (get over your initial horror as the first streaks of black appear) and repeat until you've got the dirtiness you're after.
With ivory you'll probably stop after the first smidgeon; with blue and brown you'll need a drop or two more - but go slowly. If you find that you've over done it, add a little of the original gel colour to brighten up the icing again.
It's a fascinating way to transform a colour. And the common thread of black really pulls all the colours in the project together.
Just as I've already written about the use of warm and cool colours together, as a rule of thumb - use dirty colours together and clean colours together, but don't mix the two groups.