Birthday Girl Honors Her Mother

Written October 3, 2017

Leilani turned 10 yesterday, but we celebrated her birthday the day before because most of the family could be present. I say most of the family because my hubby had to go get his mother at the Orlando airport. This 92 year old lady survived Hurricane Maria and we did not want her staying in Puerto Rico during this hard time when people are just in survival mode. They arrived at the house after the party was over, but we were so glad to see her!

My daughter, Ester, is named after queen Ester in the Bible. Her daughter, Leilani, wanted her cake theme to be on queen Ester. I thought that she was interested in this character because she attends a classical Christian school, and she was studying about queen Ester. The day before her party, Leilani says, “Abuela, do you know why I want the cake to be a queen Ester cake? I want to thank my mother for having me and not getting rid of me like other mothers would have done.”

Leilani 10th BDIMG_1427She made me tear-up. While she was in her mother’s womb, this little girl had meconium in her lungs (look it up). She had no oxygen to her brain for 4 minutes after she was born and had to be intubated because she was not breathing. She was placed in NICU and was expected to be there one month. The prognosis was not good and the doctor was afraid she would be brain damaged or at best have a low intelligence, and would probably be legally blind the rest of her life. Through a series of small miracles, Leilani was breathing on her own after 24 hours and went home after 5 days. As you can tell, she turned out to be one smart cupcake!

For the cake, I used a rectangular glass 6 x 11 1/2 that has rounded corners. I figured I could put two halves together to make the book. I actually baked 3 layers, dividing the third one in half. I coated the cake in a “dulce de leche” frosting and then topped it with the halves of the third layer. So both the cake and the frosting contain “dulce de leche”. It turned out to be a very moist cake, but not so moist that it could not be carved. I left it crumb-coated and covered in the freezer until I had time to cover it with more frosting and then fondant. I waited until the day before the party to cover with the fondant and decorate it because I don’t have time during the work week. Yep, the lettering (royal icing) is all done free-hand because I am too impatient to plan it out, but I did choose a short verse so it would fit.

Queen Ester cake- Leilani 10th

Hurricane Irma Impacts Florida

I am still feeling the effects of having experienced this particular category 2 hurricane. I don’t think I can imagine what the people in the Virgin Islands experienced but I can empathize a little more after going through this hurricane which came through our town unexpectedly. Until the last minute, forecasters were telling us that it was going west, but then it started coming back in again and even though the winds had abated to 100 miles an hour when it went through our town, it still caused a lot of old oak trees to fall barely missing the houses. Some people were not so lucky. A week later and some are still without power.The first couple of days after the hurricane the stores where either closed or just selling dry goods because some of them did not have generators and some were waiting for the trucks to arrive with supplies. People were lining up at the gas stations for a 3-hour long wait sometimes. Oh the bliss of having electricity and water!

In the middle of all this, my 10 year old granddaughter turned 11 on the day right after the storm. Her mom had brought her some miniature cupcakes from a local grocery store and I had six chocolate unfrosted cupcakes in the freezer, leftover from another batch that I made as an experiment for a bridal cake. That bridal shower had been scheduled for the weekend that Irma came through, but I had already baked the cake so I sold it for half the price to the couple who ordered it because I felt bad charging them for the entire thing. I failed to take pictures because I was also in the middle of preparations for the hurricane and still working until the last minute. I consider it a good practice cake for when the shower gets rescheduled. I also had a little bit of vanilla buttercream and a little bit of chocolate pudding so I mixed both together to make a delicious frosting for the cupcakes.

Now I would like to make a cake for the staff at the nursing home where my mom lives, Lakeland Rehab and Nursing. The home received a bit of flooding in some of the rooms, my mom’s included, but the staff worked hard all day to restore normalcy to the lives of those elder folks and by the afternoon everything was back in place and my mom was happy. I’m very grateful for their hard work and dedication.

 

What about musicians?

Why is music such an important part of your life?

What is your instrument?

Is it easy to find time to practice? Why or why not?

If not, why do you keep trying anyway?

As a musician, I asked myself these same questions. Why do I make time to practice? to make music?

I started learning to play the piano when I was 10 years old. I was so young that I don’t remember exactly why I practiced diligently. Maybe it was because my preacher father needed a pianist for the small congregation he was trying to start up. As soon as I could start reading two note chords with my right hand, he asked me to learn hymns. I could barely play the left hand chords so I learned to just play octaves with the base note; this was during my first year of piano lessons. Then my teacher went off to college and even though I didn’t have any more lessons until I was in high school, I continued playing hymns and pretty soon I began to play all the notes in both hands. I taught my first piano student when I was 10 or 11 years old. I just passed on what I learned in my lessons. In order to go to my first year lessons, I had to walk a mile to the teacher’s house once a week and every day to practice at the church. Some deacons noticed my diligence and they brought me an old upright piano to practice on at home during our stay in that town. Six years later we moved to another town and that was when my dad bought the piano that I still own to this day. No one made me practice. I wanted to spend time at the piano and today  many times I fee frustrated because I can’t practice as long as I would like because now I have other obligations. If you walk by my house some nights you will hear me playing the piano at the late hours of 10:00 pm or later. 

This is the constant state of my piano because I don’t want to put away anything that I currently practice or plan to practice.

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So why is it so important for me to make the effort to keep up my chops? It’s about the only medium I have right now that fully expresses what I feel or what I would like to communicate to others. Sometime, when I play hymn or christian songs arrangements, I feel like it is my way of witnessing to a circle outside my own. Painting is another medium I use, but I feel that I haven’t developed it sufficiently to be able to express myself with it. The painting of the tree on the hill over looking the Gurabo Valley was inspired by the beautiful Flamboyán trees that are so much a part of the landscape in Puerto Rico. The piano is the second piano in my home because my oldest daughter has no place to put it. But I digress.

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I asked these same questions to other musicians in my family. My husband, whose father was a professional musician, plays anything percussion with intuitive precision. He had solfegge lessons as a young boy then as an adult he had sight-reading lessons, but most of the time he plays intuitively as well as artistically.

IMG_1384He said, “Ever since I’m aware of life and my surroundings, I can’t remember a time where music has not been there to help me focus, refocus or simply amuse. Music is that breath of fresh air within me that always has a tune for every occasion.”

 

My youngest daughter is a flutist and plays the viola as well. She is the mother of a 7 month old baby and 2 toddlers, yet, with the help of her husband, she leaves home every Monday night to practice with the local community orchestra. She cooks their meals almost everyday in addition to working on other DIY projects, yet, most nights she sits down with her viola, after the kids are in bed,to prepare for the orchestra practices. You might think she is really good with her viola, but her real virtuosity is with the flute, however, since the orchestra had an overabundance of flutists she had the ability to pick up another instrument because, in her own words:

“I choose to practice the art of music because it challenges me and at the same time, is an outlet for my creativity using a completely different part of my brain.”

I can’t remember if my oldest daughter was still in elementary school or in middle school when she played her first and only organ recital. She was also good on the piano and the violin. Today  her schedule or working nights and raising 3 children by herself does not permit her the luxury of practice times, but she is making the effort every week to religiously attend the choir practices in her church because there is a “spiritual connection with me and music.

img_1383.jpgMy son is also a percussionist, even though I did make him take piano and oboe lessons when he was young. Actually, I made all my children start with piano lessons since it is my belief that if you can learn to play the piano, playing all the other instruments is easier. He regularly plays in his church band to the delight of his two young boys. 

When I asked him these questions he said that music serves a variety of purposes in his life. Since his work is mentally intensive, he likes to listen to electronic music to help him focus.

He says, “Music is something that lifts my mood, or sets my mood. It can affect my attitude and outlook in many ways…”

He compares playing the drums to going for a nice run; they both give him the same feeling.

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“It can be very therapeutic. There is this awesome thing that happens when I get into the zone while playing the drums. That is just the change of pace that I need sometimes from the routines of life that we all get into. Overall, music is something that I have around all the time, as much as possible. It’s something that feels like it is an actual part of my life.”

 

What Keeps Artists Going

What keeps you going as an artist? What is it that makes you keep coming back to your art? I asked this question from a few fellow artists and this is what they said.

Martha: “Working in watercolors keeps me coming back.  It is the most versatile of art mediums that challenges your abilities as an artist.  I have always tried to do the best in whatever I attempted.  Studying all aspects of my chosen activity is second nature to me.

Holly Hall Madison, GA-1
Holly Hall. Madison, GA by Martha Post

I believe as an artist in whatever medium you choose, that you paint what you love.  I love the nature of watercolor painting, and that I can use it to express my love for any subject, but especially now my passion for architecture and house portraits.  An example is the love I put into the painting “Holly Hall” a commission for a friend in Madison, Georgia.  I researched every picture of this historic home and was caught up in its history and beautiful colonial style architecture. I also enjoy teaching and passing on my experiences in watercolor painting and get much pleasure out of inspiring others to enjoy painting in watercolors.”

Preston: “As far back as I can remember, age four I think, I have loved creating with pencil, paint, ink, or clay.  I sincerely think it was GOD’s gift to me and it is in my DNA.  This does not answer the “why” question, I realize.  It is something inherently in me, I guess…something I need to do and get pleasure from the results.”

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From Photo to Pixels by Preston Stafford

Without my asking, Preston asked if I wanted to do a video of him in his studio. He has been working on a painting that has to be submitted this Friday, August 11 in a show called “Then and Now”, but I will let him tell you about it here, https://youtu.be/2JnoD3Q1lWs

Katie: “What makes me want to be in my studio day after day is the excitement and rush of adrenaline when you get started on a new painting and know you have a good design. after that its coming back into the studio in the morning to get a fresh look and then continue on the journey. My work can be seen at KSD Studio@ Facebook and www.etsy.com/shop/KSDStudio.”

Carol:  “Art has always been a part of me since I was very little. I couldn’t imagine life without it. When I see something that catches my eye; the way the sun glows on a

Creek Meditation
Creek Meditation by Carol Conti

building, or maybe mist rising from the mountains, I picture in my mind how I would paint it. Sometimes it can be years before I get it down on canvas or paper. I feel God blessed me with my talent and my part is to share it with others.  For me, it’s the process that I enjoy the most and the end result is a gift back to the world.”

 

My own thoughts about why I keep creating art: I love learning how to use new artistic mediums, experimenting with different styles. For the pure joy I feel when I get into the zone when I feel like I am really expressing who I am, what I feel, or just the joy that I get from the feel of the mediums, the feel of creating something, or the satisfaction I get from seeing others be blessed with the music or art that I use to either express myself or use to communicate God’s love to mankind.

 

 

 

Good till the last lick

You know how your parents told you not to lick your plate? When I was little I would do it behind their backs and today I did it again.

I know it doesn’t look like all that, but this tiramisu that my oldest daughter made Saturday night was so good I think I am goiIMG_1210ng to dream about it tonight. Today we had a mini family reunion at a rental apartment that my son-in-law rented on Indian Rocks beach. All my children were present, along with their families, and the two great grandmothers. Most of us trooped out to the beach to enjoy the sun and the warm water.

As you know, family reunions also revolve around food. I had prepared a potato/apple salad and took some white fish to cook. My oldest daughter took a sweet potato casserole and buttered broccoli. But the hit of the night was the tiramisu dessert she also brought along. She said she combined ingredients from two different recipes and added the Irish Cream. Yum, yum.

 

A few more firsts

 

This was my first 4 tier wedding cake. It was quite heavy. I had to take all the cakes in their own box, except for the bottom tier because it was resting on a solid 1/2 plywood board whichDestree wedding copy I had covered first with paper, then with fondant. Two people had to place the bottom tier on the table (I made sure the table was sturdy), then I had to climb on the table to stack the rest of the tiers. All the other cakes were resting on top of a 4″ high styrofoam base which I had decorated with silk flowers. It was meant to feed over 100 people, but the entire bottom cake did not have to be cut.

I found the dark silk flowers at Southern Hospitality in Plant City, Florida. It is a large warehouse store that dedicates half of its space to furniture and the other half to seasonal decorations and silk flowers.

 

 

 

This next cake was my first sweet sixteen order.                                                                          They wanted me to copy a cake made at a local grocery store,

 

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but I always like to do something different so I can call it mine. I made my own fondant shells a few weeks ahead by using shell molds. Plus I added flowers with a touch of bling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One year my mother-in-law wanted me to make a cake for one of her sons who lived in Puerto Rico. I made a small fondant covered cake which she then took as a carry on. This was before 9/11.

Davids cake flew to PR (15) copy

 

There is a “tooth” behind every story.

When I first met my husband, he was studying to be a dental assistant. He was 18 and I was 24. Yes, I know….a cradle robber. Actually, I jokingly tell my mother-in-law, you birthed him and I finished raising him. When we became engaged he was too poor to afford a nice ring, but he was creative and he made me a tooth ring which I wear to this day.

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Today my husband owns his own lab making orthodontic appliances. So for his 50th birthday I made a cake to represent what he has been doing most of his life. As with most of my cakes, I wanted to experiment with something new, and that something was edible glitter.

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So the “retainer” adorn the top part of the cake in the shape of a flower and the “nances” form the decoration around the bottom of the cake.

She couldn’t remember her wedding

Today she is healthy and has a one-year old boy, but three years ago she almost died on her wedding night. While I planned the design of her bridal shower cake, the terrible event that would take place a few weeks later never crossed my mind. Who thinks of death when planning for a wedding?

Amanda.s cake

Her best friend, and my daughter-in-law, asked me to bake the bridal shower cake for Amanda. I started making the flowers and cut out the girl figure about a week before baking the cake so the pieces would have time to dry. She preferred buttercream and I was a little nervous about this because the cake was going to travel 3 hours, but I showed my daughter-in-law how to pack and prepare the cake for travel. I am told the finished cake made it to the venue in one piece.

Amanda.s bridal (8) copy

My husband and I traveled down to Naples on the weekend of the wedding to baby sit our son and daughter-in-law’s first baby boy because they had been asked to be part of the wedding party. In a few hours Amanda was being rushed to the hospital.

I did not find which news media picked up the story first, but I did find the story as told by Inside Edition.  The good news is that even though she cannot remember her first wedding, she does remember her second wedding to her first and only husband.

Weekend with grandkids

I love my grandkids a lot. They are at the age where they jump for joy and get excited to see their grandparents. Even though when we arrive, they run to hide so we can find them. Their version of hide-and-seek is to close their eyes and cover their face even if they are in plain sight. When we “find” them, they squeal with laughter.

So I spent the past weekend with a toddler and a three-year old potty-in-training boy, loving every minute, except for cleaning up the one “accident”…..so glad Abuelo was here to help at the time. We went to a local park in the morning and then to the craziness at the playground at International Mall after nap time. Why did I go to the mall on a Saturday? It goes to show that I don’t do a lot of mall shopping and I have forgotten what it is like to take young children to the mall.

I wish I could share pictures of this set of grandkids, but out of respect to the parent’s wishes, I have to refrain. They both have big expressive eyes and dark hair. One has curly hair and the other has some wave, but not that curly. The oldest is the most empathetic of the two, and the youngest gets mad when he can’t have his way, but forgets just as quickly and loves to give and receive hugs.

Sunday, after church, we took the boys to Don Pan International Bakery.   When I Googled to find the website, I find that this is another franchise. The baked goods we bought were good, but not exceptional. So I am still on the hunt for an outstanding bakery, at least in my opinion.

Correction to the last post

I have to make a correction in regards to the submission last year to the Bartow Art Guild. It wasn’t a work done with Adobe. It was a watercolor work submitted by Ms. Pat Heyer, but I was told that there was a piece submitted 4 or 5 years ago that was done on the computer….so I was off a few years. In any case, my apologies for the error to all concerned.