Difficult times

I’ve been struggling with depression and fear and all those types of things, which I’m sure a lot of us have during this time. Moments that leave me without any inspiration at all. It’s been hard. My heart goes out to all of us struggling and those who are suffering the most.

I’m learning to let myself feel whatever it is that I’m feeling and not fight it. No judgement. Create when I can and not pressure myself to produce, produce, produce.

I’m trying to take each moment as it comes.

Take in the joys.

Take in the sorrows.

Let the anger and fear roll through me.

And breathe in hope, when I can.

Be gentle with yourselves, my friends.

Lorises don’t make good pets

Needle felted wool on wire armature with plastic eyes.

Lorises are adorable little primates with huge soulful eyes. Their round furry faces have “sad” eyebrow markings. They have tiny hands with five fingers, just like a human baby. They even at times appear to be asking for a hug or a tickle.

But they are not.

Loris doesn’t want your hugs.
Loris in distress

YouTube videos of these sweet faced animals lifting their arms and bearing their armpits have gone viral. We want to sweep the little darlings up in a cuddle. But most people don’t know that these critters are venomous and the arm lifted pose is in fact a sign of distress. They lift their arms to lick their inner elbows, where a special gland secretes venom. Their next bite is serious business!

The venom is only one reason why keeping a loris as a pet is a bad idea. They are taken illegally from their natural habitats in destructive ways, their teeth are removed in painful and often lethal procedures, and they are kept in small crowded cages. The stress of bright lights and transportation often kills them. And even if they survive the process of becoming a pet, once in human care, they are almost certainly malnourished. A diet of insects and tree gum is hard for humans to cater. Neither are they suited to human schedules – they are nocturnal and need solid chunks of sleep during the day. They also have complex social lives and need a mysterious combination of space and companionship that science is only just now starting to unravel.

If all those reasons aren’t enough, consider the fact that the pet trade is threatening the wild population of these animals.

I know what you’re thinking.

But they are so cute!

I know, I know.

We want to cuddle one, just one!

I hear you.

What if I told you there was a way to cuddle a loris and keep it in your home without harming it while ALSO helping lorises in the wild?

Watch my video below to find out how:

 

Lorises need to be free.

Please visit The Little Fireface Project to learn more about these amazing denizens of the forest and how to help them.

Help a loris.
Thank you!

Lemon curd cheesecake

This year marks the ten year anniversary of the artists’ group, Colony of Coastside Artists, CoCA for short. To celebrate, I made a lemon curd cheesecake and brought it to our meeting.

The piped trim is sour cream buttercream frosting.
The crust is the classic graham cracker crumbs with butter.
I made lemon curd for the first time for this cake!
I had never attempted cheesecake before and this was almost a disaster! I was using a no-bake recipe and couldn’t for the life of me get the filling to thicken up and set. I finally moved it to the stovetop and added agar agar.
I was worried how it would turn out, particularly the texture, but it was well received at the CoCA meeting.

Congratulations to CoCA and especially Patt Sheldon who runs the group nearly single handedly! It’s been wonderful being part of the group and I applaud all the effort that goes into it.

Octonauts Party

I made a chocolate cake for my nephew’s Octonauts themed party. It was a blast! (This is long overdue, as his birthday was back at the end of December, but better late than never.)

Devil’s food chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting inside is so yummy, this is the second time I’ve made it for his birthday cake. I also like to put chocolate bee bees in the cream cheese layers for extra chocolatey crunchies. The outside frosting is Swiss meringue buttercream.

Using the colorful meringue frosting, I piped out the corals, seaweed, and starfish and froze them a week ahead. Then the night before the party I simply placed them on the cake along with the toy characters. Such a time saver!

The “sand” is made from graham cracker crumbs mixed with finely chopped pecans. I couldn’t resist using Goldfish crackers for the cute fishes swimming around the cake.

Captain Barnacles is his favorite character.
Assembling the cake layers with the chocolate cream cheese frosting.
Professor Inkling is one of my personal favorites.
I’m especially proud of the white and orange trims.

A Taste of Art for the Holidays

I had my first “in person” art show at the Half Moon Bay Library on December 7th and 8th with the Colony of Coastside Artists. It was a blast! I had never met and spoken to so many people about my artwork – and they were all so supportive and kind! My husband, Nick, acted as my spokesperson when my shyness threatened to send me inside my shell and I was honored to make connections with so many fascinating people. I even got to hear an octopus story!

The library is gorgeous. The natural light from all the windows showed off our art beautifully. And the librarians were hospitable heroes! They made the entire event seamless and fun.

The first day was rainy.

I made cranberry and pecan pinwheel cookies! And chocolate chip cookies too, though they’re not as photogenic.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to all the visitors who came, all the artists who participated, and all the library staff who helped pull off a wonderful show!

100 days of sketching

I participated in @kesh’s artchallenge on instagram for 100 days of sketching.

ChairBooks_web

I had such tremendous fun churning these out!

Every day was a challenge but to my surprise it actually *did* get easier…

…even if it was never exactly a breeze. I started to accept that not every drawing that I made was going to be a masterpiece.

Each day was a fresh start. A chance to try something new. To experiment.

And I started to explore what was really going on inside me.

It really became a kind of therapy.

Here are a few highlight sketches. You can view all of them on my Sketches page.

 

93BF1255-EC96-4987-A155-9CE82050E2ECA7636BFE-E9BC-48C7-84A5-980EC4CD1C08BF7B3330-C1D5-49FA-A670-3F153EC2A920314AD6A6-6FD3-437F-95B4-46E3C6EAA495

I can’t thank Kesh enough for setting up this art challenge! He is such an inspiration. He makes all kinds of art videos on his awesome YouTube here. And of course go find him on instagram @kesh.

 

Would anyone be interested in a printed booklet of a few of these? I am thinking of compiling a ‘best of’ maybe along with another artist or two.

Blue Agate Cake

A little while ago, a good friend commissioned me to make an anniversary cake with a lapidary theme. I dove headfirst into the world of geode cakes!

 

This was the most challenging baking project I’ve ever attempted. When I started, I didn’t even know what fondant was or to how grow my own rock candy. I learned SO much from this project and made so many mistakes. It marks many firsts for me: my first square cake, first multi-tiered cake, and the first time I tried covering cake with fondant. Not to mention the first time I’ve ever made rock candy!

He also requested a flavor of cake I had never heard of before: apple cocoa with chocolate chips. Of course I had to make a test cake and sample it.

Here’s a pic of the cake before any frosting is applied.

chocolateapplecake
Apple cocoa cake with chocolate chips without frosting. Scrumptious!

This cake is delicious! Walnuts and spices along with the apple give it an autumnal vibe and the chocolate chips push it over into ultra decadence. It’s a very dense cake and I needed to bake it for much longer than usual, but that crispy edge is what kept me coming back for more “sample” bites. Scrumptious!

I decided to pair it with inner layers of chocolate cream cheese frosting.

chocolatefrosting_cropped
Chilling in the fridge.

Then I coated it with blue American buttercream frosting.

 

I love the rectangle shapes. Those blue blocks are so … Minecraft, heehee.

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Blue ice block from the video game Minecraft 

The American buttercream frosting naturally formed color variation as I alternated chilling the cake in the fridge and smoothing it.

bluefrosting_bottomtier_adj
Darker streaks in the American buttercream frosting developed as I chilled and scraped the cake smooth.

Next I started getting my fondant ready to drape on the top tier. Did you know there are several different types of fondant? I had no idea until I started this project. For this stage of the cake, I decided on a no-cook recipe for fondant that involves powdered milk, condensed milk, and powdered sugar. I kneaded half with blue food coloring and then twisted and swirled the two parts together to get a little bit of an agate ribbon effect. Then I draped it on the top tier, which was nerve wracking and resulted in many cracks.

fondant_toptier
Top tier with cracked fondant.

Fortunately, cracks go really well with geode stone cakes! I simply painted the cracks with dark blue and gold food coloring and pushed rock candy into the fissures.

I had the rock candy growing in my kitchen for a couple of weeks. Perhaps the high humidity where I live slows the process down, but it took much longer to get any substantial crystals than anything I had read online. I felt very lucky that I had started growing them when I did. I made two flavors: cinnamon to go with the spices in the cake and apple to go with … you guessed it, the apple in the cake!

I used that same powdered milk fondant recipe and swirl technique to make edible agate slices to place on top of the cake. The toothpicks help secure them into the cake.

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Fondant agate slices

About a week before growing the rock candy, I had started growing my own sugar geode using this video as a guide: Rock Candy Edible Geode by HOW TO COOK THAT on YouTube

I made a different fondant recipe (the traditional “basic” type made from cooking granulated sugar, water, and corn syrup — and a little bit of salt) as the base for the geode so the sugar crystals would have something granulated to grow from. I thought powdered sugar wouldn’t grow crystals — or at the least, not as quickly. Then I made a sugar syrup using coffee extract as the flavor and let it sit for three weeks inside the fondant geode shape. I wish I had photos of this process, but I was too worried to have the presence of mind to document it at all. The entire enterprise was a huge risky experiment! But here you can see when I finally installed the candy geode into the bottom tier of the cake after cutting a side of it and letting the syrup drain.

geode_adj
Candy geode set into the side of the cake.

Then I added supports and put the top tier on. It was over two feet tall! Definitely the biggest and heaviest cake I’ve ever made.

blueagatecake_adj
Blue lace agate cake

I added lots of home grown sugar crystals and food coloring to the cracks where the two tiers came together.

blueagatecake_details
Details of rock candy and geode

My husband helped me deliver this pinnacle to the place of celebration. It was too heavy for me to carry!

cakedelivery_adj
Cake delivery!

Happy anniversary to Dave and Kathy! This was an incredible experience for me. I learned more — and made more mistakes — than I can put down in a blog post. Thank you so much for thinking of me! It was an honor to be part of your celebration. Edible lapidary is fantastic!

And thank you, dear readers, for following my delirious yet delicious journey as a baker.

Lorisnail meets new friends

My Lorisnail character meeting some new friends…

LorisnailDolomedes_web
Lorisnail and Dolomedes Spider

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Lorisnail and the Giraffe

LorisnailPangolin_web
Lorisnail and the Pangolin

These were a birthday set for my two sisters and my friend. We all have summer birthdays and it’s fun to make gifts that go together. I love the three of you so much! You are like my cavalry — I know you’ve all got my back! Thank you for being in my life.

Simple pencil drawings have a special charm. I like to imagine them inside an old little book, one that has the title written in tiny gold font on the spine. And it’s got that kind of musty, sweet smell. Ahh, old books are the ultimate comfort.

Anyway, some day I will write (and illustrate) the Lorisnail story. And all of you here will be the first to know about it!

 

If you’d like to help me get closer to my artistic goals, please consider becoming a patron and supporting me on my patreon page:

Familiar Oddlings on Patreon