September 12th, 2011

Twitter

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Hello~! Hello~! Hello~!

Yes, I’m blogging again!! – it’s been a while since the last post I know, I’m so sorry… I hope you haven’t forgotten? How have you all been? Did you all have a good summer?

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My summer holiday with the children was just so ”full-on’…

A 7 year old & a 3 year old, 24/7… As lovely as they are, & as much as I love them, by the end of everyday they’ve got me knackered.

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The last thing I wanted to do at the end of the day was to write here. I was feeling very un-creative. Every night I would just zonk out watching Japanese programmes on the internet (with a bag of dorito crisps! My fave flavour is cool original…), or fall asleep at the same time as the children.

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BUT! Finally, since last Tuesday my son is back at school, & my daughter is starting nursery from tomorrow! So hopefully I can come back to blogging like before again! And in fact, my daughter is going to nursery all day (9am to 3:25pm) everyday (Monday to Friday) from the third week! Which means… (!) I will have a good proportion of ‘me-time’ for the first time in the last 7½ years!!!!!!!!!! Oh-my-Gawd, how weird does this feel?! Pretty exciting I guess! Anyway, so infact, I should hopefully be able to blog more often than ever before! There’s so much to tell you, like about my BEST-EVER banana cake for example. And about the numerous cream-teas I had during the holiday… So watch this space!!

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One thing I was pondering on during summer:

I’m thinking of twittering. Whilst writing for this blog takes time, I should hope that a sentence or two for twitter would hopefully be more frequent?? I know I’m laughably totally late on the twitter bandwagon by a couple of years at least… But I guess it’s better late than never, & the thought of twittering from the market on Saturdays would be fun (such as “ggghh, it’s raining…!”), as well as cataloging odd bits of thought on baking might be useful…?

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So, if you like, please follow me at:

http://twitter.com/coco_and_me

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… & watch-out for my debut-twittering sometime during this week!

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See you there~!

Tamami xoxo


June 22nd, 2011

Currently I’m in love with… Amy Stevens’ cakes

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As you know, I-love-cake.
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So, quite naturally, in my spare time I’m on the look out for cake on the internet. And it was when I was link-hopping that I found Amy’s art cakes.
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Amy Stevens art cake blue white black www.cocoandme.com Coco&Me Coco and me

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Don’t you think these pictures are Oh-My-God-‘this-is-out-of-this-world’-Wonderful?

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Amy Stevens art cake orange red green www.cocoandme.com coco and me Coco&Me

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When I encountered this treasure finding, I just had to share her with you!! ^^

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Amy’s art confections series started when she turned 30. She originally wanted to make 30 cakes for her show, but as she discovered that her cakes were not going to look like what might appear on a Martha video, she decided that they would look better if made in their exuberantly imperfect state.

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What I love about her cakes is exactly that imperfection.

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It is perfectly imperfect & beautiful.

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Amy Stevens art cake white blue amber www.cocoandme.com Coco&Me coco and me

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I asked Amy some questions:

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Q: Are they all edible?

A: The cakes are edible, although they are rarely eaten. Because I make them with the sole purpose of decoration, I don’t use the very best ingredients and sometimes the cakes sit for a while in my studio while I am shooting and editing the images.

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Q: Is it sponge inside?

A: I use the same cake recipe for all of them, it’s a yellow cake recipe from Martha Stewart. Every so often, I will spend a whole day baking cakes – of many different shapes and sizes. I then freeze the layers in a big freezer in my studio and when I want to decorate a cake for a shoot, I thaw out various layers and put them together. Usually the cakes are layered with icing in between.

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Amy Stevens art cake white orange www.cocoandme.com Coco&Me coco and me

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Q: What technique do you use? ie; piping bag with different nozzles?

A: I use parchment triangles for the bags and various tips.

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Q: Is it buttercream?

A: The icing is a decorator’s ‘buttercream’ recipe I got from a cake decorating class. It’s basically powdered sugar and vegetable shortening. I found this to hold up the best – even under the hot lights while shooting. When I bake cakes for eating, I will make real buttercream (with butter!) I find it to be a little finicky in humidity, but it tastes so good.

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Q: Do your get cake orders from friends? Or bake a lot beside of art?

A: Sometimes I make cakes for friends or special occasions. I have this book called the Cake Bible and like to try different recipes from it. But in general I love to cook and bake and am constantly trying something new.

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Q: Amy, I love your pictures so much, have you ever considered doing a calendar? I’ll be the first to buy it!!!!

A: I have considered calendars and maybe in the future will make one. Right now I am working on a photo book of Confections that will be available through my website and Blurb, and will also be selling note cards soon through my website.

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Amy Stevens art cake green www.cocoandme.com Coco&Me coco and me

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Check out more of her fascinating cakes on her website!

t xoxo

June 14th, 2011

April & May

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April & May was pretty rough going.

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It was in the last week of March that my father was diagnosed with brain tumor. You can probably tell from how I write what I write, that I love my family very very much. I respect my father, he is a great man, & he is a big part of my life. He understands me, supports me & influences me. So you can probably tell that I was upset over this news. I may know a thing or two about baking, but brains? I may have one, but that’s about it knowledge-wise. Perhaps it’s that unknown that brought on the fear, the fear of what if something awful might happen?

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First of all, I should say, don’t worry though readers, he is fine now. After re-scheduling & another re-scheduling of surgery, the tumor was finally removed. And that is almost a month ago now & he is now doing absolutely great & is at home with us. The doctors have said surgery was successful. It’s a huge relief.

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During this time, I got my self in to a tiny bit of state. I found it mentally draining. Motivation for my book writing waned, well, to a complete halt actually – it’s not been touched ever since. – Despite the very fact that I knew it was comfort-eating/ emotional-eating, I snacked a lot. And now I’m two kilograms heavier. – Rather than working at night like I ought to, I would log off very early, curling up to my warm & cuddly girl ‘S’ at her bedtime.

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Now though, thankfully, things are alright, back to normal, & I’m starting to feel alright too. I feel alright enough to share this with you.

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Here’s a realization: Isn’t just a normal, everyday life great!? ^^

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Picnic:

We were going to go somewhere a little special for my 35th birthday, but what with the uncertain re-scheduling, decided to do a picnic on the nearby heath.

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We celebrated with some of my close friends, on a part of the Hampstead Heath called Parliament Hill (also known as Kite Hill), which is the highest point in North London. With blue sky, green grass, stunning views, yummy food, flowing alcohol (atleast 15 bottles were consumed!? But who’s counting? ^^) & most importantly, with fantastic company of friends… – what more could a birthday girl want? (oh, other than a diamond ring or three perhaps…of-course! Lol!)

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Picnic dessert:

My answer to portable dessert on the day? Lots of freshly made bite-size choux!! (the inside was vanilla crème patisserie mixed with whipped double cream.)

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Note-worthy picnic foods that day was…:

  • Friends T & S brought this truly AMAZING smoked salmon from Hansen & Lydersen. IT WAS UNBELIEVABLE. Really, never tasted any smoked salmon so spectacular. And it was such a great party gift too – the crowd went wild! ^^ I highly recommend it if you live in London & can get hold of it.
  • Another friend T.E who is ‘in’ to baking bread brought with him a ‘No-Knead Bread‘. It was reaaaally really perfect – with crunchy & tasty crust. He used the recipe from here. In the video, it says it needs to rest for more than 12 hours! Wow, thanks T.E for making it!!
  • Home-made Spanish omelette from friend C (that I didn’t get to try…),  a special cake called ‘engadiner nusstorte brought from Switzerland by friend G (Engadin is the valley where she grew up), beautiful Prosecco wines, Champagne… And not to forget the freshly made coffee using a camping stove

It was a very satisfactory picnic indeed!

May 29th, 2011

How to make Hello Kitty & Pokémon cookies

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Backtracking humongously here, but here are some pictures from before Easter.

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There are seven Japanese mums at my son’s school, & we all got together to raise funds for the Japan earthquake & tsunami relief. We did a sushi & cake sale in the school yard, & I of-course contributed by baking cookies & cakes.

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Upon setting about doing this, I had a clear criteria to solve. Perhaps it’s the old graphic designer in me, but I love brainstorming. So here’s what I considered:

~ I knew I wanted a Japanese theme to them. ~ It had to appeal to primary school children & their mums. ~ It also must be time & cost effective for maximum return. (The going-rate for cake spendage is 20p to a £1 at a standard school cake sale, so for the pricing to be set so low, the cost of ingredients must stay minimal…) ~ And most importantly, explicitly with NO nuts as the school has a nut-free policy.

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After a quick sesh with my thinking cap on, I figured the best way is to bake cookies but also add value to them by imprinting famous childrens characters. Hello Kitty to appeal to girls, & Pikachu (Pokémon) for boys. As for the cookie recipe, I used the tried & tested Nontan one that I wrote about previously on this blog.

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To imprint the characters, here’s what I did:

  • 1. I found a line drawing that I like on the web.
  • 2. Then printed it out b&w to a size that I want.
  • 3. Layer a clear acetate sheet on top of print, secure the corners with sellotape.
  • 4. Using a thin black permanent marker pen, copy the design on to acetate. (Non-permanent will smudge as you do your cut out work.)
  • 5. Place acetate on cutting board, & carefully cut out the black lines. – The important thing to remember when cutting a stencil is that if there is a ‘perfect’ continual line, you have to break it to avoid cutting out the inside. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but think of the inner circle in letter ‘O’ for example. – And if you look at the bow on the kitty cookie below, you’d see that there I left gaps in the line to hold the inside.
  • 6. When you have finished making the stencil, place it on cut-out cookie dough & dust cocoa powder gently & most importantly faintly to avoid smudges. Carefully remove the stencil sheet off, then bake as per usual.

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(I used my tart tin as a cookie mold to get the fluted rim.)

(Pre-packaged in a bag for quick sale. Small handmade Japan flag sticker for added touch & charity feel. Lucky that the Japan flag is just a red circle! I wouldn’t have done this if the flag design was complicated! ie; U.S.A!)

(Cookie came big in five inch diameter! But was sold only for a pound! Bargain!! If at my market, I would’ve sold them at £1.50 I reckon!)

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I made about 55 of these, & they sold within 7 minutes. I didn’t anticipate that most mums would be buying more than one each. ~ I should’ve made more…!!? ^^

May 11th, 2011

Jason Hindley

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Dearest readers, I would like to first of all apologize for not updating my blog much lately. I’ll report soon, I hope. But in the meantime, I would like to introduce you to my dearest, dearest friend of 14 years, Mr Jason Hindley.

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Jason is a photographer, an award(s)-winning one in fact. He’s also a very relaxed, good bloke too, & always very generous & buys me drinks! ^^ (Lol! Now it’s set in public domain, you’d better keep to it J! Lol! ) – On a serious note now, his photographic talent is awe-inspiring. He once took a picture of me when I was about 22, with a mohican-style quiff do. It got used for a calendar I think. Yesss, I’m officially a calendar-girl!! Ha! One day, when I’m wrinkled & want to look back on my youthful looks, I’ll show it to you. – – Anyway, I hope you’d agree from the sample pics here that he’s damn good at what he does… Respect to the man.

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In aid of the Japan Tsunami disaster, he’ll be exhibiting & selling his collection of 100 images taken in Japan at ‘theprintspace gallery’ in Shoreditch, London. All proceeds from the print sales will go to the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal. The exhibition will provide a rare opportunity to purchase the exhibited prints at an affordable charity price.

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The private view (which you are most definitely welcome to) will be on next Thursday, 19th of May, from 7pm to 10pm.

It’s at theprintspace gallery, 74 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DL.

And then the exhibition will run from the 20th of May until 3rd of June.

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I’m gonna be the first in queue to get in that night to snap up a print. I hear that there’ll also be raffle tickets & stuff too. It’ll be fun & it’s all for charidy!!

I hope to see you there. xxx

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