Bill’s kraken cake

Yar! I be a cake!

Yar! I be a cake!

2014 means more baking, but that of course also means more cake decorating! February’s inspiration came from my friend Bill. Bill is the consummate outdoorsman. He flies planes and helicopters, rides his bike 130km and sails any body of water just so he can dive in it.  It’s this aquatic love that was the focus. Sure I could have made him a sailing or diving cake, but Bill deserved more, so I made him a kraken cake!

It’s a sample vanilla cake with buttercream frosting. I was originally going to use some blue fondant, but then I realized how frosting could make perfect waves!

photo 2

The only things that aren’t edible are the tiny pirate flag (construction paper) and the mast (toothpick). The Pirate ship is fondant, as is the kraken (or generic tentacled sea-beast).  The waves were made with blue frosting, and a bit of white on the tips.

Tiny captain goes down with the tiny ship

Tiny captain goes down with the tiny ship

I fell a bit behind schedule so I really had to rally and problem solve on the go. I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

The best part is that Bill really enjoyed it.  Now to figure out what the March cake will be. Any suggestions? Or, anyone need a cake?

 

Happy Winter

I thought about making a post summing up all of 2013 and looking forward into 2014 on new years day, but three things happened:

  1. I had some wordpress related bugs on my site that rendered the backend inoperable
  2. I then got sick
  3. I got laid off from my job
  4. I JUST GOT LAZY.

Yeah, so it was reallllly just #4 and the rest are excuses. I make those from time to time. I make those a lot. I’m trying to stop that.

2013 was a pretty great year. I started it in India. I also travelled to Montreal, England, Scotland, Tobermorry and some camping and cottaging trips, too.

I also am happy to report that I saw almost every single international friend and family I have.

I got to visit my entire family in India. I saw one of my oldest BFF’s Adam and his wife Emma in the UK. I was there to see my dear friend Kate get married to the wonderful Simon. My friend Naj was able to visit from Australia and I threw him a Canadian nostalgia party. My family from Texas were in for a weekend and my Annapolis based cousin had a work conference that saw him come back to the GTA. (The only ones I didn’t get to see were said cousin’s wife and new baby girl, damn!)

That is quite and amazing year. There were a lot of great things but there was also a lot of anxiety and fears. I was glad to see it close out and welcomed the new year. I knew of the possibility of getting laid off for a very long time so when it finally happened I was relieved. No more wondering!

Now  that I find myself free of stress and obligation. I’ve decided to take a small break, buoyed by the advantages of being laid off and ready to make some changes in my life.

I’m definitely going to get back into the working world of making the internet in some form, but for now I’m going to also invest some time in my hobbies. My biggest one is baking. I’ve always been pretty competent at following a recipe, but would really like to have a deeper, molecular understanding of baking.  I bought Alton Brown’s book “I’m Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking” and I read through the beginning parts from time to time. He does a really great job of breaking down the science of what is happening when you bake.  I’ve only made a few recipes before but now I have the time, so I’m going to make them all. The one thing that prevents me from having a timeline here is the pile of baked goods that I have. I can’t exactly eat them all in one setting, and don’t want to bake a new batch of anything until the previous one is done. If you want to help me with this problem, just drop by my house or invite me somewhere and I will provide you with delicious baked goods.

I’ve already baked the first two recipes, both of which are muffins. The first is ‘plain ‘ol muffins”. I decided to add shredded coconut, butterscotch chips and chocolate chips.

photo 1

That sounds alright, but I learned at least one thing: I don’t like butterscotch chips. Maybe it was the combination of 3 different sweet things but I found it a bit overwhelming. The actual muffin recipe was great but next time I’d add some fruit t it.

The second one is Chocolate Muffin #7. These I made to spec, and they turned out pretty great, but slightly dry. I think thats because they should have been removed from my oven a bit earlier, but that is easy to fix next time.

chocolate muffins #7

deliciousness!

So here’s to a fabulous 2014. I’m hoping for a year full of change and it’s already delivered on that. I’m pretty confident it’s only going to get better from here.

Wedding Wine Labels

In September, my brother-in-law married the most excellent woman and I was very happy to be a part of their day. Like most weddings it was largely DIY, and I got to participate by making wine for their home-made wine. It wasn’t made in a bathtub or anything, the brides parents have been making their own for a while and had created batches of white and red for the big day. Of course, the label choices at these make your own wine places are a bit plain and boring, so I offered to make some.

This was a very good creative project for me because it had the required restraints, but also being for the easiest to please bride ever. I had a time limit and specs, but pretty much free reign after that. I’d also really enjoyed drawing and creating things for print for my wedding, and this was a great chance to do that again.  I made them both in Illustrator.

It was pretty easy coming up with themes that suited the couple. They love two things, perhaps above all: cats, and rock climbing. So each label was dedicated to each of these loves. I’ve posted the pictures from concept to finished product below.

Kitty themed:

1) Concept:
“get meowied”. What more do I need to say about that? It’s intended to be kitty versions of them.

2) This was my first attempt at creating it in Illustrator. I have a really hard time drawing things from my mind, and these cats looked totally creepy. It wasn’t until I looked at images of cartoon cats, that I realized what I was doing wrong (mostly everything).

Wedding Label 1

I feel uncomfortable looking at this

3) After finding some images I had a better idea of what a cartoon cat should look like. I put together this basic version. I knew this wasn’t complete but I was pleased with the general layout and shape of the cats.

Looking a little better here, but still feels far from done

Looking a little better here, but still feels far from done

This is where a good editor comes in handy. My friend Sol took a good look and offered up some suggestions and even made a few of them himself. He (smartly) looked up other wine labels and found elements that could be added. One of the things he suggested was a textured background and border. I added those, as well as the type of wine. This is the final:

Finished wine label

Finished wine label

And here is what it looks like printed and on the bottle:

mmKittyWineOnBottle

Rock Climbing:

I was going to draw the rock climbing one but then their friend had taken a great photo from a recent trip and I decided to vectorize that one instead. I think it turned out great!

Here is the original photo:

Rock Climbing Original

Rock Climbing Original

and here is what I did to it. It wasn’t as hard as the other one, since I was just tracing elements that exist. It was quite a challenge to create the lines and shapes to give it a sense of shading and depth. This is my first time vector tracing anything and I’m glad it was a simple photo.

Final rock climbing label

Final rock climbing label

And here it is on the bottle: (apologies that this photo is poor quality. With all the craziness of wedding weekend I failed to take a better picture).

The final product

The final product

They both really loved the labels and I’ve gotten a few compliments on them from the guests. That was the best payment! I hope to create more stuff for print in the future.

Yurting at Bruce Peninsula National Park

The sun is behind the clouds, at Indian Head Cove – Bruce Peninsula National Park

The next chapter in the ongoing saga of an indoor kid who ventures outside takes me Yurting! A yurt is semi-permanent structure, a round wooden structure with a deck. Bruce Peninsula has a few of them for rent. It’s pretty much like a camp ground with 10 yurts. Each yurt sleeps 4-5 people. There are washroom facilities near by. It’s right on Cyprus lake, and a short hike up to the gorgeous Indian Head Grove.

I didn’t get any great shots of the yurts, but here are two for some idea.P1070914Little Yurt Deck

Yurt fire pitYurt firepit and view of adjacent yurt.

Staying in a yurt is great. It’s a step up from camping, in that you get to sleep on a bed, and don’t have to set up a tent. There is no electricity in the yurt, so you do need to bring a cooler, and cook all of your food, but that’s pretty easy on the provided BBQ.

Lake Cyprus and Indian Head Cove are absolutely gorgeous.  The colours of the sunsets and water are amazing

From high up

There is a lot to do there. From Cyprus lake there are many hiking routes. You can swim in lake cyprus and near Indian Head Cove if you can handle the cold. We saw snorkelers, and kayakers, too. Tobermorry is a short car ride away and from there you can take ferries to islands. We didn’t get around to doing that this trip, but next time. The park is a designated “dark sky” zone, which means there’s less light pollution there than most places in southern Ontario. I saw so many stars. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the Mikly Way (like I did on my very first camping trip which was in Algonquin park 15 years ago).

I had a great time hiking and hanging out. I logged my first swim of the season, and even braved my legs in the freezing water of the bay. I wasn’t as brave as Jen and Steph who jumped in (Steph did it twice), but I probably would have died. It was probably around 5 degrees.

It’s also an exceptional place for photgraphy. The colours of the water and the landscapes are prime. I forgot to bring my tripod, but was able to take some really good shots. There are quite a few that I am proud of.

I’ve posted a few of them below, with the slideshow/link to full album as well.

Sun set over Cyprus lake

Husband, Sun & Flies