Posted on April 18, 2014
I have traveled to the west side of Chula Vista many times because my best friend used to live there. In my many years of traipsing around Chula Vista with Keyanna, I never came across this bakery even though it was only about half a mile from her home! Shane and I only recently discovered this gem on a search for the infamous wagashi, Japanese tea cakes.
Hogetsu is hidden away in a tiny shopping center, not visible from the street. The exterior of the building looks a little industrial, therefore not so much like a warm inviting bakery. However, when you step inside, magic happens!
I about died when I saw the colorful little tea cakes! Above, were our purchases from the bakery. Afterwards, we quickly resented placing such a small order.
The bakery is owned by an old Japanese couple that make all the wagashi on the premises. They certainly have a special talent for making beautiful, tasty objects out of rice! The brown tea cake on the right, was the first one we tasted. It had a very thin, light pancake wrapping the outside and was branded with cherry blossoms. Inside was a sweet mochi, rice dough, and this was one of the softest textured mochi I have ever eaten! It was like biting into a pillowy cloud. It became very clear that the pastries were just freshly made! Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what the names of these individual tea cakes are, however, teacake #1 was delicious!
We read a suggestion on Yelp that it was best to come to the bakery right when it opened to get first pick, otherwise the best selections would have already disappeared! We certainly didn’t want that to happen, so we showed up right at their opening time, 10am, which fortunately is not too terribly early.
The second tea cake we tried was the rainbow colored mochi. It looked like colorful toy sashimi because it was rectangular in shape and the bottom was white like a bed of rice. The rice was equally soft as the first, however, this was my least favorite. The top colorful portion was slightly salty in flavor making this mochi more savory. Shane’s description of it’s flavor was very accurate, “like the finest play-doh”! He did find this play-doh quality odd but, strangely, he took a liking to it. Come, on! Admit it! We all tried to eat play-doh as kids and remember it’s distinctly salty taste. Although, I have to admit I was a little exceptional in that I tried to eat many non-food items as a child which included silica gel and my mother’s contact lenses!
I digress! At any rate, tea cake #2 received mixed reviews. Shane liked the rainbow mochi and I did not. Although, If you have a strange desire to reminisce about your play-doh eating days, definitely give this a try!
The third tea cake we reviewed was the purple, plum-shaped mochi. They certainly do not overlook details at this bakery because they made a little green stem coming out of the plum from agar-agar which is a seaweed derived gelatin. The plum mochi was my favorite! It had same soft rice dough on the outside, except it had this extraordinary melt-in-your-mouth quality! Inside, was a soft, sweet, smooth red bean filling. Shane and I both loved this, so we definitely recommend tea cake #3!
The last tea cake we tried was the mochi shaped like a white peach. They even captured the beautiful color gradation on a real peach as the color transitions from pink to white. This too had a little agar-agar detail except this was a little green leaf. The peach mochi had the same incredibly soft rice dough on the outside. The inside had a sweet white/yellow bean paste that was more firm in texture than the plum-shaped mochi. This was also, tasty and we recommend this as well!
We came to Hogetsu with our friends, Chrissy and John. They, very smartly, purchased many items which you can see below.
I will definitely come back to Hogetsu and purchase more amazing tea cakes! I hope you have an opportunity to visit Hogetsu as well! 🙂
Shane, Chrissy, John and I made a video review of our purchases from Hogetsu. If you want to watch some silliness, watch our video below!
Posted on April 12, 2014
We have another Japanese candy review! This is another crazy candy kit from Kracie, which is the maker of Popin’ Cookin’! The Japanese name of this fishing candy set is Asobo Sakana Tsuri.
Below, you can see the contents of the package.
Unlike other Kracie kits, this doesn’t involve actually making the candy. The candy is pre-made and comes in the purple package. What makes this kit unique is that it is a fun game that you can play with other people! The first step to play this game is to put the candy pieces in the clear blue “kiddy pool” above.
You then pop out the colorful paper board hooks, which you then use to “fish” for your candy. The candy is a gummy marshmallow and is shaped to resemble sea life. There are crabs, squid, seashells and fish.
The candy is artificially grape flavored and unfortunately does not taste very good. The candy seems to suffer from an identity crisis as it seems to hover in that twilight area between gummies, taffy, bubble gum and marshmallows. Since the candy doesn’t quite cross over into any clear category, the resulting texture is confusing. It is both hard, foamy and chewy. Not delicious, however, taste, as with most Kracie Popin’ Cookin’ kits, seems to play a secondary role to its interactive quality. In other words, buy this kit to play the game! The fun factor more than makes up for any lack flavor! Here is the link to the candy:
I get many questions about where to get other Popin’ Cookin’ kits, so here are more links below in case you are interested.
If you would like to watch the video of Shane and I taste-testing and battling it out over the fish candy, you can watch the video below!
Posted on April 6, 2014
In January I made the decision to apply to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts artist’s residency program. Haystack received an anonymous grant that allowed them to offer artist’s residencies for the very first time!
For a period of three years, starting last year, Haystack started offering a juried artist’s residency program. I attended Haystack on scholarship in 2007 and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life! Because I have such fond memories of my time there, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity since I knew that this program will only last for a limited amount of time. So off to work I went and I scoured over my application for two months before I submitted it! Fortunately, my hard work paid off, and I am very happy to say that I will be one of the artists in residence this summer at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts! Fifty artists from varying craft backgrounds from across the country will be participating in the residency. We have the opportunity to utilize all of Haystack’s incredible studios to make our art! I truly look forward to having this two week period of time completely set aside where I can focus making my own personal work! I certainly recognized some of the well-known metalsmiths from the list of artists chosen: Jeffrey Clancy, Tina Rath, and Lauren Kalman.
I will talk a little bit about my past experience at Haystack so I can paint a better picture of what an incredible school Haystack truly is! Haystack Mountain School of Craft was founded in 1950 by a group of craft artists in Balfast, Maine. The school is located on the coast of Deer Isle, which is a remote area in Maine. The school is tucked away in a beautiful forest next to the ocean. The scenery is breathtaking! Anyone would feel inspired just walking the grounds at Haystack!
I was awarded a scholarship from San Diego State University School of Art to take a class at Haystack. I wanted to experience working in a completely different medium, so I decided to take a table making class. The instructor was Matt Hutton, who is head of the furniture department at Maine College of Art. Matt had two teaching assistants: Yuri Kobayashi and Cory Robinson. All three received their MFA from San Diego State University studying under Wendy Maruyama. Yuri graduated from SDSU while I was still in the graduate program and was happy to see a familiar, friendly face!
As I mentioned earlier, the studios at Haystack are well-equipped and well-maintained. Below are some images inside the wood working studio.
The atmosphere at Haystack is wonderful. My fellow students were friendly, supportive and driven. We had 24 hour access to use the studios to make our work. There were many instances when I hobbled out of the studio at 1am or 2am and still saw students working away in other areas. The students understood that this was a special opportunity to focus on creating art at this amazing school and therefore, everyone wanted to fully utilize their time at Haystack.
Arthur, one of my classmates, was in his eighties taking his very first woodworking class! He was a retired doctor and he very generously invited us to visit his home where he could show us his breathtaking craft collection! Arthur had traveled all over the world and had acquired well-known works of art, including original Hokusai Japanese woodblock prints. The few pieces that really stood out was his collection of original George Nakashima furniture pieces.
When Arthur was living in Pennsylvania, Nakashima was a neighbor of his. Before his career took off, Arthur purchased several furniture pieces which included a dining table, chairs and coffee table. George Nakashima was born in 1905 and was given the title of “Living Treasure” by the emperor and government of Japan in 1983, which is the highest title any crafts person from Japan can achieve. Some of his furniture pieces have sold at auction for over 100,000.
In my furniture class, I decided to make a very small table, since I knew I would have to lug this back on the plane to California. I designed the table to look like a tree and be about the size of a foot stool.
I made my table out of cherry wood. Above, is the table top, the foot of the table and a small leaf-shaped shelf.
All meals and housing are provided when attending Haystack. Generally, people have the impression that camp food isn’t very good. I certainly did. Oh, was I so wrong! My classmates and I would often joke about students coming to Haystack simply for the food!
All the meals were freshly prepared with local produce. There were plenty of vegetarian options as well. Of course, we cannot forget about the dessert!
Someone was so inspired by the desserts at Haystack that they chronicled their experience through sketches! The desserts were amazing and always eaten up very quickly!
I became friends with many of the students in the textiles area. I went on a walk through the forest with a few of the students and their instructor, Jon Eric Riis. Jon is an internationally recognized fiber artist whose work resides in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian and Metropolitan Museum of Art just to name a few.
At the end of the two week session, the students displayed their work in the studios for everyone to view.
My classmate Caleb made a beautifully designed coffee table. He was barely twenty and was clearly very talented. I love how his modern table doubled as a magazine rack!
Below are the furniture pieces that my classmate, Arthur, made.
He made a Chinese Go table and was ambitious enough to make a second piece: a wine rack.
Above, are the tables that my instructor, Matt Hutton, made for Haystack’s auction. At the end of each session, artists donate some of their work which go to auction. The proceeds help to support Haystack’s programs.
Below, is my “finished” table. I finished all the components of my tree table but didn’t finish the assembly. It took a little longer than expected to carve. 😛
I just taped the parts together so people could get the idea of what the table would like when complete.
Below, is an example of work made in one of the other craft studios.
In the paper making class, the students made sheets from alternative materials, namely vegetables and fruits. The above paper was made from thinly sliced garlic.
I took this picture while standing at the top of Haystack’s famous wooden flight of stairs. I wanted to capture a view of the trees, the school and part of the ocean on my last day at Haystack. These images above were a sampling from my Powerpoint presentation that I gave to SDSU’s School of Art in fulfillment of the requirements of my scholarship to Haystack. I hope these images inspired you and I cannot wait to step foot again on this amazing campus.
Posted on April 3, 2014
The Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, San Diego organizes the Cherry Blossom Festival every year! In recent years, this event has become a little more exciting as the expansion project of the park comes closer to completion. The park acquired the lower canyon area where they have planted one-hundred-fifty cherry trees and will have an additional exhibition space and tea room. Shane and I attended the festival both in 2013 and 2014. Below are images and footage taken from the 2013 festival.
Most of the pictures that I took are in the lower expanded area of the park. Many of the plants are new and have not yet fully grown. The Japanese Friendship Garden is going to be amazing when it is complete!
In the above picture, you can see some of the sectioned-off areas that they are still in the process of landscaping.
Above, is one of the wood bridges spanning across the man-made stream. Of course, since this is a festival there were several booths set up selling traditional Japanese street food. We first purchased our food tickets and then eagerly went on to taste-test the various offerings: yakisoba, taiyaki, and takoyaki. We first went on to try their yakisoba. This was a noodle dish with small pieces of cooked and pickled vegetables. The dish was mild in flavor but good. Unfortunately, I don’t have images of the yakisoba to show, but if you watch the video at the end of the blog post, you can see us try it!
Next, we tried the taiyaki which is a fish-shaped pancake filled with sweet red bean paste.
This was definitely our favorite of all the foods we tried at the festival! The exterior pastry is just like a light, fluffy pancake! The red bean paste inside is smooth and lightly sweet. If you like mochi, you will love this!
The last prepared dish we tried was the takoyaki. We were very lucky because we were one of the last people able to purchase this before they ran out! Takoyaki is dumpling with pieces of octopus inside. The dumplings are covered in a sweet soy sauce mix, drizzled with a little mayonnaise and finally sprinkled with bonito flakes.
This could have been really delicious, however, the cooks rushed in preparing this dish trying to keep up with the long lines of customers. The batter wasn’t fully cooked, leaving the takoyaki a little soggy. Otherwise, this would have been excellent.
Now onto our Japanese candy review! Shane and I decided to walk down to the lower portion of the park and sit in a sunny patch of grass to conduct our review. The candy we tried is a special treat that comes out specifically for Cherry Blossom season in Japan and is called Tanesei (Hishiuchi).
Shane found this at Nijiya Market in San Diego and was immediately drawn to the bright colors of the candy! Being that this was a special treat that comes out once a year he definitely had to pick this up and give this a try. The candy was rather large. Each diamond-shaped piece was about 6 inches in length! Despite their size, they were light and airy.
Upon looking at this product, one wouldn’t necessarily assume this was food. At first glance, it looks like hand soap because of it’s large size, matte texture and bright color. This is a rice flour and cornstarch candy.
Well, it might come as no surprise that this did not taste very good. The candy was hard, light and crunchy making it’s texture very similar to styrafoam. If you took foam core and wafted a little sugar in its direction that would be a pretty accurate description of what this cherry blossom candy tasted like.
Another way I can describe this is if you have ever participated in holy communion in a Catholic mass and eaten host, this tastes like a very thick, hard version. Unfortunately, Shane and I gave this candy two thumbs down. 😦 If any of you out there is familiar with this candy, definitely let me know! Maybe there is a special way in which this would be eaten in Japan and I’m just not familiar?
Shane and I had a wonderful time at the Cherry Blossom Festival in the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park and would definitely recommend anyone attending! If you would like to watch our video review of our experience you can watch it below.
Posted on April 2, 2014
I recently made a silver kitty cat necklace for April of AprilJustinTV and AprilAthena7. She has three little cats, Charlie, Bob and Sunrise, that she adopted from rescue centers and have become a part of her family. April and her husband, Justin, shower their kitties with all the love and affection they could possibly hope for! Below are the initial sketches of the cats that I made before I made the necklace.
Below are close ups of the three little cat pendants I made. I wanted to make cute, little cartoon versions of April’s kitties. I cast these parts in ancient bronze.
Charlie is the gray cat with the tuft of white fur under his chin. Sunrise is the orange tabby cat with stripes. Bob is the kitty that is half gray and half white.
Below are is an image of the whole necklace. I fabricated the clasp and charm out of sterling silver.
Here is April’s video featuring the kitty necklace I made! She shows the necklace in about 30 seconds into the video. You can even see April wearing the necklace when she and her husband go to a restaurant.
April and Justin are such happy, cheerful people! I enjoy watching their channel because they exude such positivity! I hope you enjoyed looking at the kitty trio necklace I made! I have much more jewelry and candy posts coming in the near future!
Posted on March 26, 2014
I fell under the sickness that was going around last week, but I’m feeling much better today! Thankfully, we are back on track and have sketches to show! Here is week 3 of my Sketch a Day journey.
Above, I have various sketches of pieces I’m considering making for Comic-Con International. Before I know it, Comic-Con will be around the corner and I have much to prepare! This is definitely the biggest show of the year that I prepare for. Despite the craziness, it is a lot of fun to do! 🙂
On March 12, I went to my friend, Veronica’s, birthday and housewarming party. Hanging on her wall, she had framed surreal painting of a large cat and a small girl that I loved. I was just barely able to sketch a general outline of the figures and then when I got home I filled in all the details from I could remember. I’m sure I made a few creative embellishments here and there. 😉 On March 15, I made some sketches of cherry blossoms that I am going to fabricate for an upcoming project. I drew details of the flower to give me a better idea of how I will make this metal. On March 16, I am still sketching out more ideas for my Creative Stone Setting class that I am teaching right now. I have clearly finalized how I will approach future demonstrations for the class. On March 17, is a drawing of another fun piece that I might make for Comic-Con: a cute mini marshmallow character!
On March 18th, I was sketching a husky for a felt sculpture. Fortunately, I finished making the little husky and recently delivered it this past weekend. Here is a little peak at what the finished project looked like!
My last entry for the week was on March 19. I was watching Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” music video and fell in love with the sphinx cat head masks that her back up dancers were wearing. These sketches were inspired by the masks and I drew the heads from multiple angles. I’ve always found sphinx cats to be very fascinating to look at, therefore these drawings might evolve someday into a finished jewelry piece.
I hope you enjoyed looking at my most recent sketches!
Here, again, are links to the sketch book that I use and my favorite drawing pens:
If you would like the watch the accompanying video I made of my sketch a day journey you can watch it below!
Posted on March 14, 2014
I am so sorry that I am already a week behind! I am still working up towards sketching once a day, but I’m glad that I have definitely been more productive with my drawing than I have been in the past.
As I mentioned in my last “One Sketch a Day” post, I want to try to use my sketchbook with more purpose. Above, I was sketching possibilities for my last demonstration in my “Marriage of Metals” class that I recently taught at Whaley Studios. Below that, I was also considering updating my business card and postcard designs. I think this will be a big improvement to the current design I have now.
Above, I have another entry sketching out demonstrations for my upcoming “Creative Stone Setting” class at Whaley Studios. The following two entries are research for an upcoming long term project. Over the past six months, I have seen several documentaries on bees and was struck by the devastating bee colony collapse disorder that is sweeping across the globe because of current commercial agricultural practices. I look forward to working on this project and I will definitely reveal what I finish in the future! Next, I recently went to Taboo Studios for an art opening that featured some of the work of my past graduate professor, Helen Shirk. If you live in the San Diego area, this gallery is definitely worth taking a look at! It’s certainly the nicest jewelry gallery in San Diego as it features work from small studio jewelers with more innovative designs.
Above, is the last grouping of entries. Both are jewelry projects that I am working on. One, obviously, is related to cats and below is a piece that I am revisiting from graduate school. I made a very bizarre necklace of naked mole rats because I found these creatures to be so fascinating despite their not-so-attractive exteriors. I think the revisions that I plan to make on the necklace will be a significant improvement.
I wanted to include images of the pens that I use to draw with that I mentioned earlier.
These are great for fine detail work in drawing! I have been using these for years. You can find them on Amazon, if you are interested. Sakura 30062 6-Piece Pigma Micron Ink Pen Set, Black
My absolute favorite are the Copic Multiliners.
The pen nibs and ink are replaceable. The body of the pen is also more durable because it is made of metal. If you are interested in these you can check them out here.
And, of course, the sketch book: One Sketch a Day: A Visual Journal
I hope you enjoyed looking at my recent drawings! You can watch my video review below:
Posted on February 27, 2014
I was an Illustration major when I was in undergraduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design. Even though I went on to teach and work in the jewelry industry, I still find tremendous satisfaction from the drawing process. I came across this sketch book in 2012 at the San Diego Museum of Art gift shop and immediately fell in love with it! The book is called: “One Sketch a Day” and is by Chronicle Books.
I love the sketch book’s retro styling! It has a 1950s textbook feel. In the interior, each page is divided into two sections for drawing, making it a manageable size to tackle on a daily basis. At the beginning of each section, one can write in the specific date of when the drawing was created.
Above are some of my early drawings in the sketchbook. I find the paper quality to be decent, despite what I read in some of the reviews of this sketchbook. This is not a multimedia sketchbook, therefore I found pens to work the best. Micron and Copic Multiliners are my favorite brands to draw with to achieve the kind of fine detail that I am looking for. Here are a few links for sets of these pens:
Good old ball point pens are also excellent to sketch with! I can build up light layers when shading that give my drawings a similar feel to those done with pencil!
Below are some later sketches.
I worked in the sketchbook more consistently in 2012, however, in 2013…well…I ceased to make it a priority to draw in this book. In 2013, I finished a dismal two sketches! Now that we are in a new year, I want to draw on a regular basis and I feel, hopefully, that creating blog posts and videos about my weekly progress will give me the structure I need to produce. This time around I will use the sketchbook as a tool to aid in my design process for jewelry designs and other creative freelance projects. This will in turn give me more purpose in utilizing this awesome sketchbook! I hope you enjoyed looking at some of my drawings! I hope this encourages you to practice sketching as well! If you are interested in this specific sketchbook, check it out here:
If you would like to watch my video review of “One Sketch a Day”, you can watch it here:
Posted on January 8, 2014
The next review in my Japanese candy adventure is Takoyaki candy by Meiji. This is a candy version of the popular Japanese street food. Takoyaki is a ball-shaped dumpling made with octopus, green onions, and ginger. A Takoyaki sauce, similar to worcestershire, and mayonnaise is drizzled over the top and finally sprinkled with bonito flakes.
I have to admit, this did scare me a little to taste this. Past experience has proven that these little DIY Japanese candy kits are barely passable as edible. When I took a bite out of this, I was pleasantly surprised! This tasted like a soft peach flavored Jello! The interior gummy was firm and grape flavored which contrasted nicely with the soft gelatin exterior. The caramel sauce on the outside had a nice, slightly smokey flavor. The sprinkles were probably my least favorite part, but not terrible. The sprinkles were more airy and chalky in texture than what you typically experience from candy sprinkles. All in all, I definitely give this two thumbs up! A Japanese candy kit that is both fun to make AND fun to eat?! That definitely deserves high marks!
If you are interested in purchasing this candy, I received this kit from Oyatsu Cafe. www.oyatsucafe.com This was something that I picked out from their website to give my honest review. You can also check out my video review on Youtube below!
I hope you enjoyed my Japanese candy review and I will be back with much more! 🙂