Sunday, April 8, 2012

Springy springtime cake

This is the cake I've been serving at many Easter dinners and springtime birthdays. It's got lemon and cream cheese...can't get much springier than that! It's great with just simple, smooshed-on frosting but not too hard to pretty up with a fistful of flowers from the yard.
Here's how to make it:

Ingredients for cake:
1 box white cake mix (this is my only cheat...I cannot find a white cake recipe I like yet)
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Zest of one lemon, plus 2 tablespoons juice

Mix up the batter as directed, then add the poppy seeds, zest and juice. Bake in two round pans. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Ingredients for filling:
1 cup lemon curd
1 1/2 cups whipping cream

Beat the curd a bit with a whisk to make it smooth. In a separate bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold about 1/2 cup of the whipped cream into the bowl of lemon curd, then fold that mixture into the remainder of the whipped cream. Chill for one hour.

Ingredients for frosting:
2 bars of cream cheese (full fat...what else would you expect??) at room temperature
1 stick of butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
About 2 cups powdered sugar

Beat the cream cheese for a few seconds until there are no lumps. Add the butter, lemon juice and vanilla and beat until completely mixed. Add powdered sugar, one cup at first, then 1/2 cup at a time until the frosting is the consistency you'd like. I like mine a bit on the creamy side to make fun icing designs easier (it firms up in the fridge).

To assemble:

Set the frosting out for an hour to soften it so it won't wreck your cake when you spread it on. Cut each cake horizontally until you have four layers. Fill with three layers of the whipped cream, then frost the entire cake with the cream cheese frosting. I used a large star tip to make the design around the border, then pressed some fresh flowers into the top. Refrigerate this cake since it has the whipped cream filling.

Try not to eat it in one sitting.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Chilean Tooth Fairy

Here's the backstory to this painting:

Two years ago, my father suffered a stroke. Luckily, he survived and is doing quite well. While he was in the rehabilitation hospital in the weeks immediately following the stroke, he lost a crown from one of his teeth. Leaving the hospital to get it replaced was impossible in his condition and would surely have been against medical advice. He called his dentist to find out what to do in the meantime.

The dentist, a young man from Chile, was relatively new to my father. When he was called, he got in his car and drove into the city, then went into the rehab hospital and fixed my father's tooth. There was never a bill for the service. The two men have since become friends and share the occasional dinner or do small favors for one another.

I was so touched by the act of kindness from this young professional that I immediately made up my mind to thank him in some way. Good intentions, but rather has taken me two years but I have not forgotten. I finally created a painting for the kind dentist, which will be delivered with something home-baked and delicious.

I imagined a tooth fairy with classic Chilean features -- richly colored skin, dark hair and dark eyes. A little research told me that the children of Chile do not actually get visited by the tooth fairy...they are visited by El Ratón de los Dientes, a quick little mouse or rat who takes their loose tooth in exchange for a gift. It's an adorable concept, but this little fairy was already stuck in my head, so...the dentist will be getting a mixture of both cultures.

And a big hug from me for helping my dad when he needed it most.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Pretty Sketchy

I recently tried to find a sketch I'd made so that I could turn it into a painting, and had to search through no less than seven sketch books. I like to keep the old ones which are filled up, in case I want to make a variation of an old painting, or just for a good laugh.
(Above: a girl enjoying her shoe collection. Not a finished work -- yet.)
Not only that, but sprinkled among the sketches, fabric scraps glued onto pages, and paint swatches are little drawings that my daughters have done when I'm not peeking.

(Above: portrait of Julia Child. Painted and sold.)
It's fun to page through and see which sketches have been deemed worthy enough to turn into a painting, or see which of several drawings a customer chose for their final portrait.

(Above: portrait of Ella. Not the chosen sketch.)
I am not a patient sketcher. I don't spend lots and lots of time working on details or shading; rather, I get a sense of the composition and forms and then do the heavy work with paints or papers.
(Above: '80s Madonna girl and Johnny Cash. Not finished works.)
Some of these will never see the light of day but popped into my head and had to be put down on paper; others will nag at me until they've been painted.

(Above: braid study for Little Red Riding Hood; a finished painting. For sale here.)
They are now dated, and I go back through them when I'm feeling a creative block. Usually I can find some little doodle that looks worthy enough to try out in paints. The next creation will be the girl with her shoe collection. Should be fun!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A toast to the New Year

Happy Toast buttons by hownice on Etsy
French Toast earrings by TheTinyFig on Etsy

Kawaii Plush Toast Buddy by TheNerdsNest on Etsy

There are so many adorable toast items on Etsy that it just seemed right to use them to ring in the new year...besides, my celebrations lately are more tea-and-toast than champagne toast. Mr. Robin and I had a nice, quiet new year celebration which included Chinese food, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (American version), and bed by 11:00. With two little girls who were staying at their grandparents' house, the stakes were too high to risk being on the road late on that particular holiday. Besides, we had to see what the "other" Lisbeth Salander was like! She did not disappoint. I've already rambled on about the Dragon Tattoo trilogy so I'll stop here... that I can ramble about the newest trilogy I'm reading, The Hunger Games. Such a huge following but I'm holding out on a final opinion until I finish book three. I started it this morning so I should know by tomorrow sometime! Ha!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Halloween was a bust this year! The costumes were ready: a store-bought nerd and a hand-stitched bat. Then BAM...we were hit by an unexpected snowstorm a few days before, and the power was out all over the place. Many towns canceled trick-or-treating, though our officials suggested using our own judgement. Since we were out of town keeping warm, we skipped it. Not worth tripping around in the dark! Would've made things extra-spooky though. Hopefully there will be a do-over at some point, so my little goblins aren't too disappointed. Besides, I need a treat bag to surreptitiously poke through after lights out! Boo.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

...or is it? The parents I know are pretty much divided into two camps: those who cannot wait to send their children back to school, and those who want to wrap their arms around their Carter's-clad "baby" and never let go. I think I've got one foot on each side. We have had our adventures, we have had our summer reading battles and bribes, we have had enough ice cream to sink a ship. They've had enough of each other, and enough of me. Enough already! Time to get back to a predictable schedule, order, seeing friends on a daily basis, and getting adequate sleep. (I was referring to them, but on second thought I may be referring to myself here.)

This year is different. This will be the first time that both of my daughters are in school for a full day. That means from approximately 8:45 until 3:15 there will be no one here but me! Should I laugh hysterically or mope and inhale their pillow scents as I make the beds? I confess that I am looking forward to having more uninterrupted time to work. Another upside is that the house will stay cleaner because there are fewer hours for them to rip through it like tiny tornadoes. Tiny, cute, rosy-cheeked tornadoes with high voices and marker on their fingers and chocolate on their chins. *sob*

Maybe I'll finally paint the master bedroom after living here for 7 years. Maybe I'll take a class! Maybe I'll adopt a dog! But first I think I'll take a week or two and enjoy the day-long calm I mean emptiness I mean peace I mean loneliness. We'll see how long I last...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dark and Stormy

Two very different pieces...the last items created before setting up my exhibit this weekend! (both sold now)