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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Blue lace agate cake

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

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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!

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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…

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Lorisnail and Dolomedes Spider
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Lorisnail and the Giraffe
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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

Getting Organized

I finally have flat storage for my artwork!

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This is a huge milestone in my life. I have wanted flat storage for ages and never had any. My artwork has been folded, tucked into sketchbooks and paperpads, rolled, and stacked in horrible places for years. I even had a mold/mildew incident!

This set of ten drawers is a miracle! I found them for free — someone in the neighborhood was clearing out their barn. I couldn’t believe my luck!

I jumped in the van and provided vague directions to my husband up a narrow twisty road to the old barn. The drawers were much bigger than I had imagined. We somehow wrestled them into the back of the van — they just barely fit! We had less than an inch clearance.

Getting them into my bedroom was a herculean task. Big thanks to my husband, Nick, who helped me orchestrate the dismantlement, re-assembly, repeated dismantlement, and final re-assembly. Dad, Mom, and my twin sister all pitched in too. I needed all hands on deck to get this thing figured out. Thank you all! I would still be crying on the floor without your guys’ help!

Now I can simply open a drawer and place my finished work inside. It is a REVELATION! I feel so liberated!

Unicorn Cakes

For my nieces’s first birthday party, I made unicorn cake! And a little unicorn smash cake for her.

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It was really fun to make these. The ears and horns were made using a gingerbread house recipe. I made extra horns for fear they would break. Ha! That gingerbread is so tough it was hard to bite into them!

The ears were coated in white chocolate colored lightly with red food coloring. The horns were wrapped in store bought caramels that had been rolled into “snake” shapes. Once the “spiral” looked good, my husband then sprayed them with edible pearl paint.

The eyes and little heart on the back are melted dark chocolate. I dipped a toothpick into the melted chocolate and drew the shapes onto wax paper and chilled them in the freezer.

The flowers were made ahead of time, frozen, then placed on the cake the night before the party.

It was hummingbird and spice cake in alternating layers with a cream cheese cinnamon frosting inside. The outside is my favorite frosting: vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. So smooth and fluffy!

This was my first time attempting the rainbow swirled frosting effect. It was fun! I’ll definitely be doing it for more cakes.

Everyone said it was delicious.

Lula at the Park

My beautiful niece turned one in June!

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To celebrate her coming into our lives, I made a Crayola crayon portrait of this beautiful soul. She has the sweetest hugs! She has given us more love, more joy, and more DANCING than we know what to do with!

Keep dancing, you sparkling star!

 

If you’d like a look into how I made this fine art portrait using crayons, take a look at my patreon page:

Familiar Oddlings on Patreon

Tweed the cat

Some months ago, I received a custom order for a pet memorial of this lovely, lovely fellow:
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It was an honor to make such a meaningful piece. I needle felted wool over a pipe cleaner armature, used small glass eyes, and made the whiskers from fishing line glued in place with superglue.

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I made a removable collar like the one in the photo reference.
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Such unique facial markings!
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My initials on the belly, lost in the fur.
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I was told he had a funny habit of sitting on top of vases and pots. What a silly!

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If you would like to see some of the process that went into making this needle felted oddling, wander over to my Patreon page where I show many, many photos of the different stages and changes I made as I worked:

Familiar Oddlings on Patreon